Million dollar babies: Give A Little Life Day smashes record as community goes big for baby cause

From paNOW
December 7, 2018 - 4:17pm Updated: December 7, 2018 - 8:05pm

The 13th annual Give A Little Life Day Radiothon for the Victoria Hospital Foundation's campaign for a new, improved neonatal unit surged into record-breaking territory Friday.

When all was said and done, a trail-blazing $1,003,296.25 had been raised in pledges and in-person donations as the on-air personalities of the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group set up shop at the entrance to the hospital. That makes it the largest-ever Give A Little Life Day and makes a huge step towards the project's ultimate goals. Organizers said additional funds were still likely to come into the coffers even after the 6 p.m. close. The effort surpasses the $546,000 raised back in 2007.

After a constant flow of donations throughout the morning, the afternoon and early evening saw two extraordinary donations that pushed the fundraiser into all-time new territory when $220,000 was gifted from the estate of Norbert Nordman. Nordman spent more than 1,300 hours volunteering at the hospital, comforting the babies in the nursery every Wednesday, before his passing.

Sherry Buckler with the Victoria Hospital Foundation said Mr. Nordman's contribution was extraordinary.

"Not only did he give of his time while he was alive, but even after we've lost him his gift will continue to comfort these babies," she said. " We will make it a priority to memorialize him in our new neonatal unit so every family, mother, and father who comes through will know his story."

Then, just before the clock struck 6 p.m. on a historic day of generosity, news came in of a $265,000 anonymous donation. That propelled the day's efforts into seven-figure territory.

These generous donations were among many all day long that saw members of the community, young and old, companies and groups, turn up at the hospital to present their cheques. Many others donated online or on the Radiothon phone line.

"I've never seen an outpouring from the community like we've seen this year for a project that is so crucially needed," Director of Programming with Power 99 FM, Garth Kalin told paNOW. He has produced all thirteen Give A Little Life Days on the radio. "There's nothing more precious to people than their children. This is where babies who need extra special attention need to go. We must have this."

JPBG radio presenters broadcast for 12 hours non-stop for the cause. As this video from earlier in the morning showed, they may not be doctors, but you could trust them when they said how important it was to donate today.

The aim of the fundraiser is to ultimately reach just over $2 million for the proposed new neonatal unit.

Mother's recollection highlights need for better space 

“I was just shocked …I just bawled.”

That was the reaction of a Prince Albert mother when she entered the badly-cramped neonatal space at the Victoria Hospital a few years ago to see her sick newborn. Her child, Kasey, had just been transferred from RUH in Saskatoon, having spent the first few weeks of his life there.

“There were so many babies in the room and babies constantly being born,” Genean Beskal told paNOW. “There were sick babies, new babies, older babies, those without parents; every single scenario that you can imagine was all put into that 350-square-feet space.”

Beskal said having just seen her son receive treatment in the larger dedicated space at RUH, the reality of the conditions facing the medical professionals in the P.A. unit was all too much.

“I remember the nurses coming up to me and saying ‘are you so happy to be home?’, and I just bawled and I said ‘no’, it was crazy,” Beskal said.

Beskal would have her second child, Bo, a few years later and he too would need special care at the Victoria Hospital but at least she was prepared this time for the challenging reality of seeing staff working every day in a space barely the size of a double garage. The area has been described as both a broom closet and a telephone booth. But Beskal noted while the space is tiny, the professionalism shown by the staff is huge.

“Our doctors are amazing, and it sure took the stress off me getting to know them all while I was there with my babies,” she said.

The community in and around Prince Albert is doing something about the inadequate neonatal situation Friday.

The Victoria Hospital Foundation is running the 13th annual Give-A-Little-Life Day Radiothon in conjunction with the three Jim Pattison Broadcast Group stations: 900 CKBI, XFM and Power 99 FM. The stations, along with their well-known on-air personalities, are broadcasting live from the lobby of the Vic from 6 a.m. through 6 p.m. and kick-off the multi-year campaign to raise $2.2 million to expand and upgrade the hospital’s Level 2 Neonatal Unit.

The new unit will see the end of the cramped area that the Hospital Foundation has described as lacking space and privacy for new moms, is noisy and chaotic, and where the crowded equipment can pose a safety risk.

The proposal is for 11 fully equipped baby bays with warmers, incubators, medical gases and monitors. The current space is designed to handle just four babies although it often exceeds that. Each new baby bay will have a pullout bed and chair for mom.

“Babies are life, they’re what keeps our community going,” Beskal said. “I think it’s the most important department in our hospital.”

The community is invited to drop by the hospital Friday to drop off a donation or, of course, to make a pledge and to stay tuned to the Give-A-Little-Life Day Radiothon all day.

Pledges can be made online at or by calling call 1-855-816-LIFE.


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