Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
April 30, 2001
School helps teachers family
Students fundraise after 2-year-old diagnosed with Rett's Syndrome
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Students at J.H. Picard French Immersion High School are a caring bunch and they show it.
When they learned that the baby girl of teacher Pierre Picard had been diagnosed with Rett's Syndrome, a debilitating degenerative condition, they immediately rallied around him.
Now the whole school, including staff, parents and alumni, is involved in a fundraising effort to help Picard defray some uninsured health costs. On April 27 they were to hold a $10-a plate spaghetti dinner, silent auction and dance to raise funds.
The money will help Picard and his wife Simone Chalifoux defray the costs of renovating their home to accommodate a wheelchair, buy a minivan, get a wheelchair lift and travel to treatment programs in Eastern Canada for their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Joanne.
Rett's Syndrome is a rare but debilitating, degenerative condition which hinders the ability to communicate verbally, plan and execute body movements, and breathe normally. Life expectancy for Rett's Syndrome sufferers is 40.
Picard and his wife were devastated when they learned of Joanne's condition. "It wasn't something we expected, that's for sure," he said. "We thought she had some learning disability or something like that or maybe she needed physiotherapy to catch up.
"It's going to be much more intensive than that. She will probably never live what is regarded as a normal life. She will always be under our care."
But Picard, 33, has learned to accept his daughter's condition and is glad he can count on the support of the school to face the road ahead.
"The response has been overwhelming," he said. "It's really touching. I think we are definitely living our school motto, We Are a Family."
Picard credits the girls' volleyball team, which he coaches, with initiating the fundraising effort. "When I told them about Joanne they became very emotional and wanted to help. That started the idea of the spaghetti supper and with the help of our chaplain and a couple of teachers and parents (the fundraising effort) has expanded."
Chaplain Gilles Denis has been serving as liaison between the students, the parents and the school, making sure things aren't done twice. He also contacted some of the alumni, which agreed to open a trust fund for baby Joanne with Capital City Savings.
Denis also tried to incorporate prayer in the fundraising effort and is happy he's succeeded.
"Prayer is important too," the chaplain said, noting students have been praying for Joanne every morning in their religion classes and that most of the intentions they drop in the school prayer box have been for Joanne.
Whatever money is raised through the spaghetti dinner and auction will go to the Picard family with no strings attached. "Whatever we raise we are happy with it," Denis said. "Our main objective is to give a very strong sign of love and support."
Liz Epler, a parent of three students at J.H. Picard and a former J.H. Picard student herself, is glad to help. "I think the most important thing is the love that is shown by the kids," she said.
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