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'A double tragedy': Toronto charity making preparations to host young Ukrainian cancer patients in need of treatment


Inside an Etobicoke high-rise, the apartment sits vacant. There are couches, chairs, and a bed with sheets on it, all waiting for a tenant no one here has met yet.

This may very well be the new, temporary home, of a Ukrainian family dealing with more than just war at home.

"These families will have been impacted by a double tragedy," Alexandra Chyczij told CTV News Toronto. Chyczij is the President of the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress. "Not only the illness of their child, but the impact of war layered on top of that."

For some families in Ukraine, the devastation of losing their homes and fleeing for their lives has been made even more difficult by the battles their children are facing with childhood cancers. With temporary treatment facilities being set up in neighbouring countries, some global relief organizations are preparing to fly some of the children in need of cancer treatment to children's hospitals around the world. Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children is one of those potential sites.

A spokesperson for SickKids confirmed to CTV News Toronto that teams have started preliminary preparations in the event that paediatric patients and their families require care in Toronto. But the hospital says at this point nothing as been confirmed. The hospital says it is exploring the possibility of providing care to a few cancer patients from Ukraine, but calls it a "highly fluid situation" involving many government and community partners.

Some of those community partners aren't waiting for confirmation to take action. Meagan's HUG, a charitable organization that raises money and awareness to fight children's cancer, started organizing immediately to help families who may be headed this way.

"We hit the ground running" said Denise Bebenek, the founder and president of Meagan's HUG. Her goal, " to see what we could do to mobilize and organize anything that needs to be done to ensure that we're providing accommodation and food and clothing and all the essentials that kids need in such a challenging time in their lives."

The charity teamed up with Capreit, a real estate investment trust company, who offered up ten apartments for use by Ukrainian families- if they're brought to Toronto for care. The company's CEO says his staff got to work immediately when approached with the request. Mark Kenney told CTV News, "within 24 hours we had ten apartments fully furnished with linens, with dinnerware, furniture- ready for people to move in, and be comfortable."

Meagan's HUG is also raising money through their website to help cover other costs that families might incur, like food and clothing. Bebenek says she's been overwhelmed by the generosity of Canadians who are offering to help.

Chyczij says she is also impressed with the response of people across the country who are willing to help Ukrainian families that may be headed to Toronto.

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