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About Sickkids
About SickKids

December 9, 2009

SickKids receives a healthy dose of social networking just in time for the holidays

Introducing Upopolis, Canada’s first secure online community connecting kids in hospital

Toronto, ON – Some kids in hospital can’t go home for the holidays, but they now have a new way to stay connected to family and friends.

Today, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), TELUS and Kids’ Health Links Foundation (KHLF) announce the launch of Upopolis, an online social network designed especially for young patients in hospital. Upopolis aims to make hospital walls virtually invisible between family and friends through the power of social networking. SickKids is the largest centre in Canada to offer this site to its patients.

Created by KHLF and powered by TELUS, Upopolis provides the best features of social networking for young patients, who often feel disconnected when they are in the hospital. It offers personal profiles, personal blogs, instant chat and child-friendly games. The site is a password-protected social network that uses a content-filtering tool and pre-consented contacts to create a secure environment for patients to communicate.

Upopolis also provides unique features to kids in hospital, like a homework site that helps them stay up-to-date with their schoolwork, links to child-friendly health and wellness information, and connections to other children with similar health challenges. The SickKids Child Life Department, which works with patients to help them cope with social and emotional issues associated with being in hospital, uses Upopolis as a therapeutic tool to help patients combat isolation and express their feelings.

“Caring for children is at the heart of everything we do. We are always looking for ways to provide better care and improve the patient experience,” says Mary Jo Haddad, SickKids President and CEO. “We are excited by what Upopolis can do to enrich the lives of our patients and support SickKids’ approach to family centred-care.”

Through a unique partnership with KHLF, TELUS provided the technology to develop and build Upopolis. TELUS continues to provide site expansion, ongoing access to Upopolis, managed web hosting, application support and maintenance services. The TELUS Toronto Community Board also donated $40,000 to help launch Upopolis at SickKids.

“It’s an honour to bring Upopolis to SickKids, a world-renowned centre for excellence in paediatric care,” said Joe Natale, TELUS President, Consumer Solutions. “Kids are inseparable from technology. They rely on their social networks more than any previous generation. We’re excited to champion a partnership that uses the power of technology to bring the virtual world to sick kids at the bedside, keeping them connected to their friends and family when they could feel isolated. It’s important all year, and maybe that much more so during the holiday season. At TELUS, we believe that the private sector has a role to play in helping healthcare providers improve the patient experience. We look forward to more days like this when the private and public sectors come together to make a stay in the hospital a little easier for the young patients who matter most.”
The online support network was inspired by the hospital experiences of two teenage friends, Christina Papaevangelou and Katy McDonald. In February 2002, Christina was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at McMaster Children's Hospital with a life-threatening illness. Shortly thereafter, Katy was diagnosed with cancer and was at SickKids for an extended period of time. During her hospitalization, Katy often felt disconnected from friends, family and her school. Sadly, Katy lost her battle with cancer. However, their friendship and common experiences inspired Christina to explore ways to help kids in care stay connected.

“It is my dream to expand Upopolis to every children’s hospital across the country. We are excited to launch today at SickKids bringing us one step closer to that goal,” said Basile Papaevangelou, chairman and founder of Kids’ Health Links Foundation. “We were inspired to create Upopolis by the common hospital experiences shared at SickKids and McMaster Children’s Hospital. Connecting the kids in care at these two hospitals and others brings to life the vision of the Kids’ Health Links Foundation.”

KHLF and TELUS launched the first Upopolis program in 2007 at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton and since then it is expanding to other hospitals and healthcare organizations across Canada, including B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, IWK Health Centre in Halifax, CHEO in Ottawa and Lutherwood in Waterloo. By adapting the TELUS technology, the Upopolis team has developed the system to meet the specific needs of each hospital, whether adding French language capabilities or information specific to mental health.

About The Hospital for Sick Children
SickKids is affiliated with the University of Toronto. It is Canada’s most research-intensive hospital and the largest centre dedicated to improving children’s health in the country. As innovators, SickKids leads and partners to improve child health provincially, nationally and internationally through the integration of care, research and education, providing the best in complex and specialized family-centred care, groundbreaking scientific and clinical advances, sharing our expertise globally, enhancing an academic environment and championing an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system. For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca.

About TELUS
TELUS (TSX: T, T.A; NYSE: TU) is a leading national telecommunications company in Canada, with $9.6 billion of annual revenue and 11.9 million customer connections including 6.4 million wireless subscribers, 4.1 million wireline network access lines and 1.2 million Internet subscribers and more than 100,000 TELUS TV customers. Led since 2000 by President and CEO, Darren Entwistle, TELUS provides a wide range of communications products and services including data, Internet protocol (IP), voice, entertainment and video. In support of our philosophy to give where we live, TELUS, our team members and retirees have contributed $137 million to charitable and not-for-profit organizations and volunteered more than 2.6 million hours of service to local communities since 2000. Nine TELUS Community Boards across Canada lead our local philanthropic initiatives. For more information about TELUS, please visit TELUS.com.

About Kids’ Health Links Foundation
Kids’ Health Links was founded by Basile Papaevangelou and his daughter Christina to connect, through technology, children in health care facilities across Canada with friends and family, their teachers and schoolwork. Kids’ Health Links Foundation created Upopolis - an innovative, private online community for children in care. The Kids’ Health Links technology solutions help to alleviate stress, isolation and loneliness for children in medical care in order to help children heal faster and better to overcome traumatic medical experiences.

Upoplis scores with Zachary Starkman as SickKids becomes the largest centre in Canada to offer Upopolis to its patients.

For more information, please contact:

Matet Nebres
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-6380
email: matet.nebres@sickkids.ca

Suzanne Gold
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-7654 ext. 2059
email: suzanne.gold@sickkids.ca