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Meet the 2 Calgary women who won the Terry Fox Humanitarian Awards this year

When Calgarian Maddison Tory was 13, she had to undergo heart surgery.

The hospital was a scary place for her, and when she looked around she noticed that many other children were also struggling in their own healthcare journey.

The experience prompted Tory to create HUGS, a program to improve children’s mental health and quality of life while in hospital.

“For kids in the hospital, activities like your normal sleepovers or snowball fights, they’re all replaced with needles and IVs, and I wanted to be able to find a way to change that narrative,” a- she said in an interview on The last straight line.

Tory, now in grade 12, is one of two recipients from Calgary of the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award. The scholarship is awarded to inspiring young people who emulate Fox’s courage and determination through volunteer work.

Ye-Jean Park, a third-year health sciences student at the University of Calgary, is the city’s second recipient. She is the co-founder of Home Food Community Kitchen, the university’s first youth-led food education club.

Through this initiative, they provide students with free meal kits and lessons on how to cook healthy, affordable, and culturally diverse meals.

“I have felt truly empowered throughout my educational and personal journey to have received incredible support from mentors and to be able to truly stand on the shoulders of giants and grow as a person,” a- she declared.

“I really wanted to give back and take what I learned to empower others.”

Believe it or not, the above projects are only a small part of the volunteer work done by these two humanitarians.

Conservative Maddison

Tory has had several hospital visits in his life so far. She has lupus and says she knows what it’s like to miss out on childhood experiences.

Through her fundraising for HUGS, she was able to create several “distraction” events for children, including superhero parties, princess tea parties and Build-A-Bear workshops. Recently, the program has also helped transform patient drawings into actual stuffed animals.

“I’ve had times when moms would come up to me watching their little girls dance with the princesses,” she said.

Maddison Tory is the founder of HUGS, a program that improves the lives of hospitalized children. (Submitted by Maddison Tory)

“One of the moms came to tell me that since her daughter was diagnosed with leukemia, she hasn’t seen her dance or smile…and that allowed her to smile and take a normal break.”

As part of the initiative, Tory wrote a book on child empowerment titled, Your Secret Super Power: Ignite your SPARK.

“The book aims to inspire children to discover their own passions and make the world a better place,” she said, adding that all proceeds will go to HUGS events.

Tory is also a Special Olympics Rhythmic Gymnastics coach, a volunteer at Ronald McDonald House and a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Advisory Board.

“It’s also why this scholarship means so much to me, because it allows me to not have to hold a part-time job and to be able to focus all my energies on my studies as well as my leadership and volunteer initiatives.”

Tory plans to attend the University of Calgary and hopes to pursue a career in medicine.

Park Ye-Jean

For Ye-Jean Park, winning the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award is a dream come true.

Throughout the pandemic, she has used the food club to raise awareness about the importance of eating nutritious meals.

“I think being able to witness firsthand and experience the challenges of when my parents had a family restaurant and then having financial difficulties with that and cultural difficulties afterwards… I think that’s really what motivated me in the first place to really try to do my best to help others,” she said.

Park also works with CanShine Tutoring – a non-profit organization aimed at providing free or subsidized tutoring lessons to underprivileged youth – and mentors other young students, including helping them with public speaking.

Ye-Jean Park founded the Home Food Community Kitchen, a food club at the University of Calgary, and is also a tutor and cello player. She is pictured here with her family. (Submitted by Ye-Jean Park)

“I enjoy helping…students gain more confidence to become more active advocates in their own communities,” she said.

Music also plays an important role in Park’s life. She is a cellist and performs regularly at local retirement homes.

It’s a passion inspired by his grandfather, who had Parkinson’s disease, but who loved music.

“I was able to communicate beyond what words can express,” she said.

“I wanted to continue to convey my empathy and connection to seniors and our community, especially during the pandemic.”

Ye-Jean is pursuing medical studies and is currently researching treatments for dogs with cancer.

She hopes to become a clinician-scientist, while continuing to follow her passions for music, writing and public speaking.

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