BY LINDSAY BRISCOE
Local seven-year old Olivia McCann had an experience she’ll never forget last week when the entire Toronto Maple Leafs team and mascot showed up during one of her regular visits to SickKids.
Olivia, the daughter of Carole-Lynn and Pat McCann, has been travelling to the SickKids Hospital in Toronto on a regular basis since she was three, and every three to four weeks since May. She has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as well as uveitis, an eye condition often associated with arthritis that causes inflammation of the middle layer of the eye. Olivia was in a session with a life coach—a professional she’s been meeting with for the past year to help her get over her fear of needles—when she and her mother found out their session would be cut short because the Leafs were about to arrive for their annual visit to SickKids.
“Maybe 20 minutes later all these cameras and lights started filing in and the players just kept coming in—a lot of players. I thought it would be one or two, but the whole team came in with the mascot,” Carole-Lynn explained in an interview.
And Olivia just stole the show, jokes her mother.
“She’s absolutely not, in any way, shy. She’s the furthest thing from shy. She talks to anyone and makes friends and she was charming everybody. It was pretty funny.”
Because the room was so packed with people and gear, Carole-Lynn ended up standing at the back of the room and couldn’t really see what was going on. She had no idea her daughter was busy schmoozing with the players and journalists until she saw the coverage on CBC that night.
Olivia also had her picture taken with a number of the players and got to play bubble hockey and other games with them.
“She was pretty thankful. She said that they’re really busy men and was happy that they took the time to play with her. She also told me after that it was really nice they came and talked to her too because she’s not as sick as the other kids. She sees a lot of kids that are a lot sicker than she is.”
Olivia’s conditions and the travelling back and forth have been hard on her and her family, but SickKids has been extremely supportive over the past four years, says Carole-Lynn.
“It’s pretty hard for her because it’s a chronic illness; it’s probably never going to go away. It’s just so disruptive for her in her life. She has to leave her brothers and she misses all sorts of extracurricular activities, but it’s so nice to go there. It’s a really special place for kids. We don’t always see the Leafs, but there’s always something special. There are clowns and therapy dogs in the hall and they get to do crafts. Everyone feels special there. It’s a pretty remarkable place.”
“People often ask me why I travel so far and it’s because that is a place where they have the specialists particular for her, but I would travel across the world for them. They are top notch doctors.”
The Leafs have been visiting children at SickKids every year since the 1940s. They split up into teams of three to visit the kids that are too sick to leave their rooms.
The McCanns just bought Olivia a pink helmet and she’s set to begin playing hockey in January.