University of Calgary

Ward Foundation makes $1.6-million donation for pediatric brain research

UToday HomeApril 30, 2013

Fourteen-year-old Shea Martins, recovering from a concussion, and his mother Aida Martins attend the Ward Foundation gift celebration at the University of Calgary on Tuesday.Fourteen-year-old Shea Martins, recovering from a concussion, and his mother Aida Martins attend the Ward Foundation gift celebration at the University of Calgary on Tuesday. Photo by Laura HerpergerShea Martins is an avid soccer player. At 14 years old, he can already claim a victory with two goals at the 2012 Alberta Provincial Soccer Championships, winning gold for the team. So the day last year he was told he couldn’t play anymore because he had a concussion was the day the teenager’s world shut down.

“My son told me that he was so depressed it hurt inside, we went through some very dark times,” Aida Martins says. The mother explains that after several hits to the head, her son’s condition worsened.

“He couldn’t get out of bed. He couldn’t handle the sound of voices. He had terrible headaches and couldn’t sleep at night,” she says.

Martins shared her son’s experience at an Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation (ACHF) gift celebration held at the University of Calgary Tuesday. Through ACHF, the Ronald and Irene Ward Foundation is giving $1.6 million for research into brain health, a priority under the Eyes High strategy at the University of Calgary. The research funds are being used to create new labs for pediatric brain injury research at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute – a partnership of the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services.

“Our vision is to find better ways to prevent, treat and even reverse the devastating impact of brain-related illness and injury,” said Dr. Brent Scott, director of ACHRI and Husky Energy Chair in Child and Maternal Health. “We’re grateful to the Ward Foundation for its leadership in helping us achieve these goals.”

The donation will be used to create new labs for pediatric brain injury research at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute. From left: brain researcher Dr. Cezar Gavilovivi, postdoctoral fellow in the Faculty of Medicine; Dr. Jong Rho, section chief of pediatric neurology at the Alberta Children’s Hospital; and Paul Wanklyn with the Ronald and Irene Ward Foundation. Photo by Riley BrandtThe Ward Foundation donation will be used to create new labs for pediatric brain injury research at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute. From left: brain researcher Cezar Gavrilovici, postdoctoral fellow in the Faculty of Medicine; Dr. Jong Rho, section chief of pediatric neurology at the Alberta Children’s Hospital; and Paul Wanklyn, nephew of Ronald and Irene Ward, and trustee of the Ward Foundation. Photo by Riley Brandt“Support from the Ward Foundation is helping us attract more brain health scientists to Calgary,” said Dr. Winne Meeuwisse, physician, researcher at the University’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) and a leader of the campus-wide brain injury initiative.

“This investment is enabling collaboration at new levels. It is helping us bring together experts who are passionate about not just treating brain injury and illness, but also understanding what happens inside the diseased or traumatized brain, why it reacts as it does and how we can develop new therapies.”

“We hope our gift will inspire others to help fund this crucial research initiative,” said Paul Wanklyn, nephew of Ronald and Irene Ward and trustee of the Ward Foundation. “Ron had dementia before he passed away in 2007. We understand how devastating it can be when a person’s brain is affected by illness. Our hope is that community investments in this type of research will contribute to breakthroughs in brain disease.”

“We will focus on the most pressing problems we see in the hospital,” said Dr. Jong Rho, section chief of Pediatric Neurology at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. “We want to ensure our research is relevant and translated into better care for kids as quickly as possible.”

“In Alberta, 1,000 children have suffered from a stroke and each year 1,500 kids are rushed to the emergency department at the Alberta Children’s Hospital because they’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury,” said Randy Findlay, a director on the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation Board. “Thanks to the Ward Foundation, there is hope for those kids and their families that they will recover more quickly and suffer fewer long-term effects.”

Shea Martin is now a much happier teenager. He was treated by concussion experts at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and is slowly recovering. His mother says he has just returned to the soccer field.

“It is great to see him back in his jersey,” Aida Martins says.

The mother is extremely grateful to the gift provided by the Ward Foundation and to the doctors and researchers who work with children suffering from concussion. “The sooner they can find better ways to deal with this, the safer parents like me will feel,” she says.

 

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