Fundraiser for brain cancer research switches from walking hug around SickKids to drive-in hug

When Denise Bebenek’s daughter Meagan died in 2001, six months after she had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, the family was devastated.

But the Ontario resident says the hope and support offered by other families and staff at the Hospital for Sick Children inspired her to start a fundraising walk that same year.

Twenty years later, Meagan’s Walk evolved into Meagan's Hug, a giant human chain surrounding the renowned children’s medical centre in a heart-warming hug.

“I wanted it to be a message of hope for all the children,” Bebenek said, “[For them] to realize that they were not alone in their journey”.

Now, with the pandemic, the fundraiser has evolved once again.

On Sept. 12, the group is holding a family-friendly drive-in event called “Honks for Hope.”

“It begins at Yorkdale Shopping Centre where the cars will be decorated, followed by a car parade which goes to Downsview Park.”

The show will be hosted by comedians Patrick McKenna and Debra McGrath and feature former Blue Rodeo singer, Jim Cuddy. Tickets are available online.

Woodbridge mom, Amy Amato, knows the importance of events like these. She used to see posters for Meagan’s Walk around Sick Kids when her daughter was being treated for an aggressive brain tumour several years ago.

“I kind of made a deal with myself,” she said. “That if everything turned out well, I would do whatever I can to help Meagan’s Hug."

Join in on the fun with family and friends at Honks for Hope Drive-In HUG!

We HUG to support all of the children and families who have been impacted by paediatric brain tumours. We can't wait to see everyone come out and support such an important cause!#TogetherWeHug pic.twitter.com/ndNOocLZvz

— Meagan's Hug (@meaganshug) August 30, 2021

Her daughter Mia underwent surgery and a less toxic form of chemotherapy, which was being tested, in part, using funds raised by Meagan’s Hug. Mia is now seven-years-old and living a very normal life and loves gymnastics.

“She’s in remission, it’s like nothing happened,” Amato said.

Meagan’s Hug has raised more than $5.5 million dollars for brain cancer research since it began. The organization now has ties with eight different countries.