Meagan Bebenek was just 4 years old when her family heard the words that would change their lives forever. Meagan was diagnosed with an inoperable and malignant brain tumour that would take her life a short 6 months later.
When Meagan's mother, Denise, left the hospital after Meagan passed away, she knew she had to do something to help other children who faced serious health challenges. She also knew that no family should have to walk this path alone and founded Meagan Bebenek Foundation.
For over 20 years, Meagan Bebenek Foundation has offered support to children and families affected by brain tumours.
DR. JAMES RUTKA,
DIRECTOR OF THE SONIA AND ARTHUR LABATT BRAIN TUMOUR RESEARCH CENTRE
Meagan Bebenek Foundation has helped tremendously in the acquisition of cutting-edge critical equipment that is enhancing the future landscape of discovery and recovery in brain tumour research.
Since its inception in 2001, Meagan Bebenek Foundation has evolved from just a hospital hug to include many more programs, events, and funding opportunities to better support, raise awareness and provide critical funds to further research on paediatric brain tumours.
What started out as a group of friends and family working around the kitchen table to plan the first ever human HUG around the hospital that had treated Meagan, has grown to become a year round movement.
Meagan Bebenek Foundation has raised over $6 million for research, helping create a culture of discovery and care, leading to less toxic treatments, better quality of life and improved outcomes for young brain tumour patients around the world.
We have brought over 100,000 people together with the help of the HUG in Toronto to bring and share the message of hope with the world.
Meagan’s Walk (now Meagan Bebenek Foundation) event team started with 8 volunteers gathered around the Bebenek’s kitchen table.
The First HUG
Our annual hospital hug around SickKids in Toronto began. Amidst a downpour, the 800 people in attendance used caution tape to bridge the distance and encircle the hospital in an embrace. Now, the HUG draws thousands of people from all walks of life who come together every year to share a message of Hope! Learn more about The HUG here.
From the kitchen table to the boardroom table - we opened our office location with 20 volunteers, created a management team, and established the Meagan Bebenek Endowment Fund.
Formalizing Organizational Structures
Incorporated Meagan Bebenek Research Institute (MBRI) under the province of Ontario and formed an experienced Advisory Committee to provide guidance and insight.
Kids Helping Kids
Marked the launch of the Kids Helping Kids school program focused on empowering students to share their gifts and take a leadership role in their school community. To date over 120,000+ students have been part of the program and a school HUG. Learn more about Kids Helping Kids here.
MBRI BTRC Fund
To help guide research funding decisions, a collaborative committee of medical researchers, clinicians, family advocates and business leaders was formed. Learn more about Research Program here.
We launched the Meagan Bebenek Neuro-Oncology Fellowship Program, bringing doctors from around the world to collaborate and learn alongside the brilliant minds at the renowned SickKids hospital in Toronto. This one-year fellowship, we are fostering a global network of dedicated professionals committed to making a lasting impact on the lives of children worldwide. Since its inception, we have welcomed fellows from countries including Brazil and India. Learn more about the Fellowship Program here.
Meagan Marie Bebenek Bridge
The bridge connecting the research facility to the Hospital for Sick Children was dedicated in Meagan’s name recognizing the Bench to Bedside philosophy that Meagan Bebenek Foundation supports.
Becoming Meagan Bebenek Foundation
On September 1st, we transitioned into an independent registered Canadian charity, previously operating as a third-party fundraiser under the SickKids Foundation. To help signify this milestone, we proudly became the Meagan Bebenek Foundation, and are excited to embark on this new chapter.
Celebrating 20 Years
While the challenging circumstances brought about by COVID-19 prevented us from gathering in person for our signature HUG event, we found an alternative way to celebrate by hosting a virtual HUG campaign. In September, we organized an incredible drive-in concert at Downsview Park, aptly named Honks for Hope. The concert featured an outstanding performance by the renowned Jim Cuddy, joined by his talented sons, Devin Cuddy and Sam Polley.
Time to Grow
With 20 years of impact and countless lives touched by the HUG, it’s time to grow our circle of hope. It’s time to expand our programming across the country, embracing the growth of MBF as a movement of humanity. While the HUG remains a central pillar of our work, we are committed to further expansion.