The Lighthouse Children and Families is kicking off this new year with energy and solemnity as this year marks its 20th anniversary. With a thought for the hundreds of children who did not get to blow so many candles, The Lighthouse remembers the past decades in three periods, during which families of ailing children were offered support and comfort to face their daily struggles with disease, then bereavement.
In 1999, after years of working with children suffering from cancer, Michèle Viau-Chagnon shares with colleagues of Montreal’s pediatric hospitals what’s been nagging at her for a long time: families who care for very sick children are too often isolated, exhausted and have no resources. Convinced that something can be done to help these families, encouraged by her colleagues and collaborators, she meets the person who will become her dearest friend, Nicole Marcil-Gratton, with whom she will cofound The Lighthouse Children and Families. First, they consult parents to understand in detail the needs of the community and to build connections between stakeholders. Thus, a network of volunteers sets out to offer the first in-home support program for families with severely ill children.
In 2007, with support from the Government and from generous donors, the vision of giving families a place of their own becomes reality: Quebec’s first pediatric palliative care hospice, The Lighthouse’s Maison André-Gratton, is built and opens its doors to children with life-shortening diseases. Situated at the heart of the island of Montreal, this 12-bed pediatric hospice quickly contributes to the buzzing development of the Angus neighbourhood in Rosemont, while continuing support activities in communities across Quebec. The Lighthouse’s mission thus becomes grounded in the complete range of care and services, which include support to families, respite services, symptoms management care, end of life care as well as bereavement support.
Having contributed two decades of experience to Quebec’s pediatric palliative care expertise, in 2018 the Lighthouse takes a third step in its development. The Lighthouse care and services team develops a way to integrate significant contributions from community resources and partners to the activities for children and families, thus enriching daily child life program activities. Keeping with the values of compassion, celebration of each moment and the tradition of creating precious memories, the Lighthouse now offers somewhat of a hub of activities to families and children, thanks to community members, so that each ailing child can enjoy life to the fullest, to the very end.
Because a child with a life-shorting disease is, first and foremost, a child who enjoys the present moment, as the time has come to blow 20 candles for the Lighthouse, let’s suspend time to honour the 700 families who, by their benevolence and trust, have lighted the way for the 300 families that The Lighthouse supports today across Quebec. May this anniversary year enrich the memories of all with moments that dreams are made of.