Heather Tobin’s connection to Hope Air started as it does for many of the families we serve. Her daughter Vivienne was born with craniosynostosis, a condition where the bones in a baby’s skull fuse together too early and therefore can’t grow to accommodate the child’s developing brain. Heather vividly recalls the shock of learning of this condition after her daughter’s birth, and of the pressure to find the best treatment method in little time.
“It’s something that they couldn’t detect before birth, and your treatment window is incredibly short. We had to decide to proceed with reconstructive surgery of our daughter’s skull within her first four months of life,” she reflects. “We immediately began reaching out to surgeons across North America and everyone told us that Sick Kids (in Toronto, Ontario) was the best craniofacial centre.”
Here is where Heather’s story differs; she and her family were living in Toronto when her daughter was born. There, they were able to easily access care at Sick Kids. While the process of preparing for surgery, the procedure itself, and the follow-up were significant challenges for Vivienne and her family, living in Toronto made this option readily available to them.
“As a parent of a child who needed specialized care, I am so grateful that we were able to easily access treatment when we needed it most in the city where we lived. We were in the fortunate position not to face the same barriers many Canadians have to confront in order to access specialized treatment in major cities across Canada. The financial, emotional, and physical costs of travel to access care are real barriers to making our health care system universally accessible,” she says about her ability to relate to the challenges Hope Air patients face.
Heather realized that the accessibility she and her family experienced wasn’t the case for everyone across the country and she wanted to do something about it. Because many of Hope Air patients are children, the organization matched up with her desire to help young people facing health challenges. “I was totally inspired by the mission and mandate of Hope Air; it aligned fully with my values and I feel fortunate that I’m able to contribute to help others have that same opportunity and access to care that my daughter had.”
A family friend, Jim Burton, was Chair of the Hope Air Board of Directors at the time. Heather reached out to learn more and quickly became involved.
“I’ve been involved with Hope Air since 2015 and have been incredibly impressed with the organization. I’m so proud to be a part of a dedicated, passionate, and efficient organization that knows exactly what is needed to support individuals and families who have to travel at such a difficult time. Most importantly, as a donor, I understand the value of my donation in helping Hope Air patients. Through the organization’s transparent disclosure and reporting, I understand and see the tangible impact of my gift.”
It’s that tangible impact that has Heather feeling so invested in Hope Air. “What I value most at Hope Air is that I know my donation is making an impact every day across Canada. When choosing where to put your charitable dollars, there are many worthy causes. At Hope Air, I know exactly how my donation is helping and I feel personally connected to the team, the mission, and most importantly to the people my gift supports. If I can give every year and know that a number of individuals and families are going to benefit from it, that feels great. At Hope Air, every donation can be life-changing for our patients.”