Sunday, June 12, 2011


RIDE for the KIDS



Thank you from Carla and Mike Ellhert

I wish I could stand before you today under better circumstances. I hate to say it, but thinking about it, I don’t think I’d be here if not for the unfortunate passing of our son, Dawson.

In early February of 2010, Dawson was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The surgery to remove it seemed to be a great success but he suffered a massive stroke during recovery that ultimately claimed his short life. He died on February 15th, 2010 at eight year old.

Simply put, Dawson was one of the kindest, happiest children you’d ever be lucky enough to meet. He cared about everyone and everything – especially his family, friends and teachers and he loved nature as a whole. His infectious smile, huge laughs, quick wit and compassion made him a joy to be around.

It was rare that Dawson cried. When he did, it was usually over something that affected other people or things – like a deer on the side of the road or when he cried in the hospital for a little boy that no one came to visit.

But there was one time when Dawson cried for himself that really stands out.

A couple of days after the tumour was discovered, we drove him to Saskatoon to see a pediatric neurosurgeon. Going through registration at the emergency triage desk, it was loud and crowded.

From there, the trip to the pediatric emergency department, though short, was down a hallway that could best be described as a tunnel – it was not very welcoming for a child.

Finally, as he was lying in his bed in pediatric emergency, he started to cry. When I asked him why he was crying, he said that he didn’t like this place and didn’t want to stay.

Who would?

It was bright, noisy and cramped and all that separated him from the chaos outside was a curtain around his bed. We assured him that he wouldn’t have to stay here long and that we were sure, when he got to his room, it would be much better.

It wasn’t.

On the pediatric ward, Dawson was in a shared room with four beds. It wasn’t a very warm or inviting place for a child. There was no room for his many visitors and certainly no room for us to stay there with him. Carla and I took turns sleeping with him in his bed or lying on an old mattress on the floor. All night long, there were caregivers coming and going, tending to others in the room and it made for fitful sleeps.

Throughout Dawson’s time there, we learned that children have different needs than we, as adults do. They still need to be happy – the need to play – they need to have their parents near – they need to feel comfortable and they need to feel safe.

Very simply – they still need to be kids.

As parents, our focus had to be on getting the best care for Dawson. We have no doubt we had good people taking care of him but the facility made our short time there difficult.

Looking back, it would be hard to imagine having a lengthy stay in that environment for either Dawson or ourselves. At a time when we, as his parents needed to be able to make the most important decisions of our lifetime, we were emotionally and physically exhausted.

The new Children’s Hospital will be designed from the ground up to address these issues. Not only will a new state-of-the-art facility be able to attract the best and brightest professionals to get the best possible outcome, it will also provide for a stay that’s as comfortable as possible for both the child and the parents.

I do need to be very clear about something. From the time Dawson entered emergency at RGH to his passing in Saskatoon, he and his parents and family were treated with dignity, respect, compassion, professionalism and in our opinion, top notch are. His loss was devastating on a personal level to all of the wonderful people who provided care to him. While we watched in wonder as they calmly tended to our son in his last few days, I was completely shocked at how deeply hurt they were when they found out he would not survive. I know they must feel joy for the many children they can help but our hearts go out to these people for the young ones they cannot save.

Carla and I would like to express our deep appreciation to the WHL, Scotiabank and all the organizers, players and teams involved in the WHL Ride for the Kids.

As I said earlier, if not for Dawson’s passing, we probably wouldn’t be here today.

That’s why it’s especially humbling to see so many give their time and effort to support something so important to so many.

We continue to pray that you’ll never need to see the inside of the Children’s Hospital but I can assure you, your efforts for children and families will be appreciated far more than you’ll ever know.

Thank you so much.

Carla and Mike Ellhert

Front Row: Kim Kilbert - Representing (Children's Foundation), Mrs. Ellhert, Mr. Ellhert and son