NDG’s Christine Griffin is the mother of eight children. Her youngest, Apollonia, 12, a student at Westmount High School was born with a cleft palate.
“The doctors kept her in the ICU for two weeks and she had to be fed through a tube, it hurt me not to be able to nurse her as I had my other children,” said Griffin. “Finally, I was able to take her home after the nurses taught me how to feed her on my own. At 11 months, she underwent her first surgery to fix her palate, but it didn’t fully close. After years of regular check-ups and speech therapy, she had her final surgery at the age of seven, which was a huge success thanks to Dr. Mirko Gilardino.
“Two weeks after bringing her home she started to develop dark pigmentation spots all over her lower body. After taking her to the hospital, I was referred to genetic and neurofibromatosis clinics. She went through many observations and tests in order to diagnose her and was studied for four years. Two weeks before Christmas, the wonderful people at the genetic clinic told me Apollonia’s tests came back 96 percent negative. At 12, she had her last couple of tests and is doing great. The attention, care, and concern that everyone at the hospital gave to me and Apollonia through all this means more than I can possibly say.”
Griffin was among the participants last week in the 10th annual Just For Kids Foundation Dancing with the Stars event, which raised $310,000 as part of A Vision for The Future campaign to purchase high priority medical equipment for departments at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. This includes Ophthalmology, Cardiology, Cranio-Facial Surgery and the NICU.
Said Griffin, who was part of the Rocky Horror Picture Show group number: “I am eternally grateful for their dedication and empathy. Taking time out of my schedule to dance and raise funds for JFK is my way of saying thank you to the Montreal Children’s Hospital.”
Griffintown’s new Salon Le 1861 on Richmond Street served as the venue this year. Guests gathered for a lavish cocktail dinatoire, along with an open bar. Emcees Mark Bergman of Virgin Radio and Allyson Kassie Goldberg got things started by introducing Jason Kisber to conduct a fast-paced live auction. The judging panel consisted of World Championship Ballroom dancing judge Meryem Pearson, 12-time Canadian Ballroom champ Pierre Allaire and Cinéma Guzzo boss Vince Guzzo.
The Juste Danse Troupe got things started with a medley of dances to the tune of Annie, Hairspray, and Footloose. That was followed by eight individual dancers and two group teams. Each individual dancer was paired with a professional.
Individual dancers and movie themes they performed to were: Mia Scaff, a mother of two young dancers inspired by her daughters and an optometrist who truly believes in the cause (Die Another Day); Virgin radio weekend host Lee Haberkorn, (Dirty Dancing); Mandy Wolfe, mother of three and co-owner of Mandy’s Salads (Grease); Hal Hannaford, headmaster of Selwyn House School (Singin’ in the Rain); Father and son duo Danny and Zak Bensoussan, owners of Le Windsor Ballrooms and Groupe Évènement Crystal (Step Up 2: The Streets); Vibi Patel, a retail luxury professional (Take the Lead); Hivron Turanli, an unrelenting humanitarian who recently spent three months in Northern Iraq (The Mask). The two groups did routines based on the Penguins of Madagascar and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. When the judges tabulated their scorecards they declared the Benoussans the winners. They also raised the most money ($26,932.00). Kamryn and Charlotte Goldberg, the children of emcee Allyson and her husband Steve, brought in an incredible $21,691.
The “Just for Kids” Foundation was created in 1987 by a small group of parents who saw the need to raise funds to purchase urgently needed medical equipment for the Montreal Children’s Hospital. To date over $10 million has been raised for the many departments.
Event Chair Norma D’Alesio noted that Dancing with the Stars alone has brought in $2.5 million. “This event,” she said, “is a testament to teamwork, commitment, and overcoming challenges.”