I watched this year's Janeway Children's Miracle Network Telethon, May 31 and June 1, with interest.
In particular, I was enthralled by the many stories of children who have been touched through their time at the Janeway. As a parent, I was moved to tears several times by these tales of tenacity and hope.
This year, the telethon raised a record-breaking $2.3 million for the Janeway Children's Hospital Foundation.
And that's a good thing, right?
On the surface of it, yes.
But even as I wiped away tears at some of these powerful stories, the critical thinker in me was asking some pretty tough questions.
When will the Janeway have enough money? Are there other sectors of the health care system that need help just as much, or more?
Take seniors, for example.
Are we building a Cadillac for our children, while forcing our seniors to ride in a rusty old K-Car with no brakes?
Should we pull back a little, and do a telethon for the health care system as a whole, enabling us to buy portable oxygen for our grandparents and life-saving cancer drugs for our parents? (We could tell dramatic, tear-inducing stories about them too.)
Then the real question becomes clear: Why should we do this at all? Why isn't our government doing this? After all, if you read the mandate of the Janeway Foundation, you can't help but ask what, then, is the government's mandate? Why are we reduced to begging on TV to improve health care for our children, when the government has record surpluses?
The Janeway telethon is the largest of its kind, and has captured the hearts of so many corporate and private donors, who line up every year to give generously. And I am not suggesting that we turn off those taps. But maybe we could spread it around a bit. How about $2 million for Easter Seal House, or the Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism? That would go a long way toward helping other children in need.
How about an emergency drug fund for our seniors, or anyone who needs expensive, life-saving drugs that aren't covered by government?
I know that I'm not alone in asking these questions, and, in doing so, I am not being critical of the Janeway. However, I am beginning to question the enthusiastic participation of the CBC, who should be asking these same questions but probably can't, because they are so much a part of it.
Nor am I criticizing the TV and radio journalists who participate each year their hearts are in the right place but they, too, could start asking these questions of their bosses.
And I am not suggesting that the Janeway abandon its telethon, though perhaps they might sit down and talk with other deserving charities about how the telethon structure and mandate can be opened up to other groups in need. For example, how about a rotating guest cause', so that every second year another charity gets to benefit from this incredible outpouring of generosity? (Because, face it, no other group can come close on its own to matching the popularity and success of this event.)
I contacted a respected local doctor, who shall remain anonymous, and found that I am not alone in asking these questions.
"I do have strong opinions about fund raising for the Janeway or I guess really the lack of fund raising for seniors. On principle now I refuse to donate to the Janeway when asked at checkouts, and I won't round up' purchases. However, whenever I see something for the Senior's Resource Centre I always contribute.
"I hear but don't know that the Janeway has loads of money from the fundraising that is done. I am not sure what it is earmarked for. Don't get me wrong. We need pediatricians if even there is only one child in the province so I am all for making childcare sustainable in spite of a decreasing population of children."
However, the doctor is concerned that society seems to care less about the plight of seniors.
"The elderly are just as vulnerable, just as weak and in many ways just as innocent as young children but with the elderly there is an absence of hope that things will get better... Things are likely to just get worse so there is a different poignancy to the situation. When a child is not yet walking or is still wearing diapers we accept it and help them and know that as they grow and develop they will learn to walk and then to run, but when the same thing happens to our elders there is a pervasive sadness because the downward slide has begun."
The difficulty, the doctor said, is attempting to fundraise for seniors.
"I remember when they were wheeling the last pope out to give blessings from the window at the Vatican and propping him up in a chair in the square. I thought it was elder abuse. It is hard to get the same level of support but from my perspective, my heart aches frequently as I deal with these valiant dignified people who find themselves losing their independence and dignity along the way. I know with the cancer stuff the Government is concerned with people who are dying. Well, in my book, suffering is worse and these people suffer."
These are provocative points, and they raise tough questions.
But they need to be asked.