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'A glimmer of hope, happiness': Mom raises funds to help comfort parents with kids in Southlake's pediatric unit

Chanel Peri has boosted her fundraising goal after the first one was met in less than 24 hours thanks to one generous donation

After spending four days in Southlake Regional Health Centre’s pediatric unit with her then five-month-old daughter, Chanel Peri realized how uncomfortable the situation can be. 

In early 2020, at the very start of the pandemic, her daughter had been in and out of doctor’s offices for a fever she couldn’t shake. 

“It was scary, it was a scary time,” Peri said. 

She added that when she was six years old, she lost one of her younger cousins to a childhood illness and that it really stuck with her to this day. 

“When my own kids are sick, any parent worries, but I think for me, I’m just more sensitive to that,” she said. 

Eventually their pediatrician ordered some tests and discovered that the infant had a UTI. Antibiotics were prescribed but when they didn’t seem to be helping, Peri found herself in the emergency department at Southlake in Newmarket with her infant daughter. 

The baby was given an ultrasound, where they discovered an abscess on her kidney. It was then they were unexpectedly admitted so she could be given IV antibiotics. 

“I really didn’t think we would have to be admitted. I wasn’t prepared, I didn’t have anything other than the clothes on my back,” the King resident said. 

Their stay was only four days but it was then she realized that some additional comforts could make a tough time a bit easier for parents in the NICU or pediatric unit. 

"We were blessed to have the most incredible nurses caring for us. We were treated with so much love and care. This left a huge impact on our family and we wanted to give back in some way," she says on the fundraising page.

After talking with other parents who have gone through the same thing, one item she realized that is needed is toiletries. 

“It’s not a hotel, they’re not looking to accommodate the parents,” she said. “It’s not a priority for the hospital and I don’t expect it to be.” 

That’s why she recently started the Happiness is Sharing GoFundMe to purchase items like these, while the hospital can focus on funding other needs. 

“You’re there, you’re already worried and you just want something to give you a little glimmer of hope and a little glimmer of happiness,” Peri said. 

Her campaign launched at the beginning of July with a goal of raising $5,000 to buy items like a mini fridge so parents can eat without having to leave their child, gift cards for parents and nurses, healthy snacks for the nurses, and toys and activities for the children in the hospital. 

When she started it she said, “I’m going to aim for $5,000 because that would be phenomenal but I’m not going to be disappointed if I don’t get it because I’m aiming pretty high."

However, less than 24 hours after the page on GoFundMe went live, Peri got a notification that she had already met her goal. 

She then realized that one couple, Giocondo and Connie Niro, had made a donation of $5,000. 

“Oh my God. That was my reaction,” Peri said. 

She knows the generous donors through someone else and said they are naturally kind-hearted and generous individuals, so she wasn’t surprised that they wanted to give but never expected anything that large. 

“They care a lot about others,” Peri said. “They’re not strangers to giving.”   

Despite already meeting her goal, with some encouragement from her husband and mother, she is going to keep the campaign going, adding she would love to reach $10,000 by the end of the year. 

“The more that we can do the better,” she said. 

Peri also hopes to take what’s been given already and start purchasing items for the Newmarket hospital, saying, “There’s people in the hospital today that need things.”

This is not the first time Peri and her family have felt compelled to give back to Southlake’s pediatric unit following their stay there. 

Shortly after they had been discharged, she got in touch with the pediatric manager at the hospital to find out if she could donate a leather recliner. 

Peri said the first night in the hospital she stayed in an older wooden rocking chair all night because she didn’t want to leave her daughter's side. 

“That wooden rocking chair, it killed me the first night. I piled up blankets and pillows and everything to try and make it comfortable and you put something slippery on something wood it’s just going to slide right off,” she said. 

The next day she was sore and exhausted and after it was all over she told her husband, “I don’t want any parent to ever have to go through that. If we can at least take that out of the equation, take that discomfort, that worry, that nuisance within the process out of the equation, at least they’ll maybe have a restful spot next to their child.”

Peri, who is a nutritionist, also launched another campaign last year, selling recipe calendars that raised $2,000, half of which went to Southlake while the other half was donated to SickKids, she said.

This year, she is happy to be doing it all over again and going even bigger. 

“We took a bad situation that could have been a lot worse...we took that situation and we said we don’t want anyone to have to go through (this),” Peri said. “We can’t take away illness, we can’t take away disease, but we can make people more comfortable.”