No longer with his family and friends in body, 16-year-old Andrew Olynyk lives on in spirit in the new Just for Kids clinic at St. Joseph’s Health Centre.
On Wednesday, Dec. 19, those closest to the teen gathered at the hospital to see for the first time “Pediatric Exam Room 1” and plaque named for the boy who was known for his empathy and for inspiring those around him.
“Andrew is smiling,” said his mom, Daria, who had gathered at St. Joe’s new Our Lady of Mercy wing in which the kids’ clinic is located. “If it had been one of his friends who had passed away, Andrew would have been doing the same thing.”
In October 2009, Andrew succumbed to hydrocephalus, a condition that causes a build-up of fluid inside the skull that leads to brain swelling, and an inoperable brainstem tumour about two years after his diagnosis.
His death has left a hole in the lives of so many, especially his friends who first met Andrew in senior kindergarten at Rosethorn Jr. School near Rathburn Road and Kipling Avenue. Even though the group went its separate ways in Grade 6, all the kids stayed in touch. Jacqui Sirois, Jenna Boccia, Kayla Sabharwal, Lauren Howe, Teresa Haney, Sam Day, Patricia Batten and Natalia Lioutaia banded together to organize a fundraiser in memory of their dear friend.
An Evening for Andrew took place at Earth Bloor West, located at Bloor West and Jane streets, on July 26. The red carpet, star-themed event featured several of Andrew’s performer friends, fellow classmates at the Etobicoke School of the Arts and fellow singers with the Canadian Children’s Opera Company. It was decided the proceeds would go toward the Just For Kids clinic where Andrew was treated and cared for.
The goal was to raise $2,500, however, the event brought in $10,000.
“I still can’t believe we raised $10,000. So many people knew Andrew and know his story and have some kind of connection to it,” said Sirois. “And, it seems everyone knows someone who’s been affected by cancer.”
Sirois, Sabharwal and Boccia agreed that Andrew would be “thrilled” with the room and plaque in his honour.
“He would be happy knowing he could be a part of helping people get the help they need,” said Sabharwal.
Said Sirois, “He’d be smiling ear to ear.”
Maria Dyck, president of the St. Joseph’s Health Centre Foundation praised the group for their “excellent support” of the hospital.
“I heard it was such a great night. Everyone said it was a wonderful night,” she said. “It’s lovely that people want to do something in memory of their loved ones. You should be proud. We are so grateful.”