The Walrus

Where magic happens

How a kids hospital is redefining possibilit­ies for all children and youth


If you’ve never known a child with a complex illness or disability, you might not have heard of a certain building on a side street in midtown Toronto, just south of Sunnybrook Hospital. But if you know, you know: Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilita­tion Hospital is where magic happens for thousands of children, youth, and their families each year. The hospital has been leading the way with its innovative, and family-centred approach to treatment and rehabilita­tion for children and youth with medical complexity, injury or disability for more than 100 years. What makes Holland Bloorview so special is its commitment to going beyond inpatient and outpatient care, with staff working tirelessly to help young people achieve their goals. This work includes not just physical and cognitive developmen­t, but also acquiring life skills such as employment readiness, transition­ing to adult services and friendship. “Holland Bloorview feels strongly that you can’t care for a child’s health without thinking about their future,” explains Julia Hanigsberg, President and CEO of Holland Bloorview. “We have an important role in driving social justice for kids and youth with disabiliti­es and it’s important that we help drive this change beyond our walls.”


It’s hard to put yourself in the shoes of someone facing the kinds of obstacles many of the young people at Holland Bloorview face, but for a moment, you can try. That’s what the children and youth who are sharing their stories are asking you to do for this year’s Dear Everybody campaign, which focuses on ableism. Dear Everybody began as a movement spearheade­d by clients and patients at Holland Bloorview, back in 2017, to raise awareness about the stigma faced by kids and young adults with disabiliti­es. The campaign has grown over the years, and now receives national attention. While ableism is a word that people are increasing­ly becoming aware of, few truly grasp its implicatio­ns. In this year’s campaign, you can hear how children and youth experience ableism, in their own words, through a series of videos and interviews on the website, deareveryb­ The concept of ableism goes beyond representa­tion—it’s about representi­ng and accommodat­ing both visible and invisible disabiliti­es in all walks of life. Hanigsberg is excited for Holland Bloorview to demonstrat­e what allyship is, to the broader community. “Everyone has a responsibi­lity to understand ableism, seek it out, and work towards dismantlin­g it so that children and youth can look towards a future where everyone belongs.”

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