'It’s a piece of normal coming back': Annual IWK Telethon returns on Sunday

A yearly tradition that provides crucial funds to the region’s largest children’s hospital is back this year, after pushing pause in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The 37th annual IWK Telethon will look a little different due to public health restrictions, but the spirit of the fundraiser hasn’t changed a bit.

"Our biggest change this year for telethon is that we’re no longer live from the IWK,” explains telethon executive producer Liz Rigney. “We are here at CTV Atlantic where we’ve had to build two sets to accommodate the talent and all of our content.”

The flow of the telethon will remain very similar to previous years – with donors, heartwarming patient stories and entertainment, plus a few surprises.

"No matter where we are, or what kind of show we put together, we always have the generosity of Maritimes. We always have the donors who, year after year, provide us with so many essential funds for the IWK,” Rigney adds.

“We have the real amazing entertainment as well - so same show, just a little different in terms of location and some of the content. We’ve had to reach people via social media and reach them through Zoom, through video conferencing in order to have them on the show.”

The IWK Foundation reached out to Nova Scotia singer-songwriter Dave Gunning for some help with a special project for this year’s telethon.

Gunning says the answer was easy.

"They do incredible work at that hospital and it would be horrible if we didn’t have that place,” says Gunning. “They play such an important role in the province, so whenever they reach out to me the answer is always yes without even knowing the question.”

The president and CEO of the IWK Foundation says cancelling the telethon for the first time in 36 years due to the pandemic, was one of the hardest decisions they’ve ever made – but it feels good to be back in an innovative and virtual manner.

“What hasn’t changed is the need is so great at the IWK, they haven’t stopped. In fact, they’ve had more need, so it just feels great to be here this weekend with all of the community coming together to celebrate the power of where we live and who we are as people and to help the IWK,” says Jennifer Gillivan, IWK Foundation president.

“Community built the IWK, it’s theirs and I don’t think they’re going to let us down this weekend, I really don’t. I’m so grateful to every single donor out there.”

Gillivan says funds raised will support areas in the hospital with the greatest needs, priorities, programs and equipment.

“If you think about phototherapy, pieces of equipment in the neonatal intensive care unit, there’s pain pieces of equipment for the pediatric area, there’s pieces of equipment for urology, and it goes on,” she explains. “There’s a big list.”

Gillivan says she is grateful for all the work that has gone into making this year’s telethon a reality, “it’s a piece of normal coming back.”

“When I think of the parents and the people who really need this facility, and it’s because of Maritime donors that they have all of the equipment they need to offer world class care,” adds Rigney. “So that to me, has become the most important message this year – we are lucky to have this place and we need support to make it even better.”

The 37th annual IWK Telethon will be broadcasting live from the CTV Atlantic studios in Halifax, Sunday, June 6th from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.