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About Sickkids
About SickKids

September 5, 2014

SickKids Got Talent: Patients entertain at opening of international conference

By Ashley Durk

The spotlight was on SickKids talent on Sept. 3. Patients from The Hospital for Sick Children’s Diabetes Clinic and the SickKids Team Obesity Management Program (STOMP) delivered a brilliant performance with song and dance at the annual meeting of the International Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes (ISPAD).

SickKids got talent

“ISPAD was started because most of the diabetes societies were oriented towards the care of adults with diabetes,” said Dr. Denis Daneman, SickKids Paediatrician-in-Chief, former ISPAD President and conference co-president. “A group of people from around the world wanted to give a voice to children with diabetes and their families.”

The conference is being held at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel from Sept. 3-6. It brings together over 1,000 health professionals from around the world dedicated to the well-being of children and families affected by diabetes.To mark the conference’s 40th anniversary, Daneman, along with Dr. Jill Hamilton, conference co-president, STOMP Director and Endocrinologist at SickKids, enlisted the help of Margo Small, a social worker with the SickKids Diabetes Clinic and a former dance teacher.

“I was tearing up after the performance, seeing the girls do so well,” said Small, who along with Toronto-based choreographer Michael Caldwell co-produced the dance routine, Reclamation: Dancing with Diabetes. All nine dancers have Type 1 diabetes and are patients at the SickKids Diabetes Clinic. Small created a similar dance piece in 1995 for a Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) opening ceremony. Daneman saw the performance and approached her this year to do it again.

“I’ve been on stages before, but never like this, in front of a group of people who might have diabetes like me,” said Aliyah Jackman, 13, who played the role of a young girl with diabetes. “At my old dance studio, there’s nobody with diabetes and you’re the only one in the corner testing. They would look at you like you’re different, but I feel the same as everyone here.”

“It’s very cool that it’s through the eyes of the diabetic,” added Serena Harding, 17, as she explained the motivation behind the routine and its title. “Going through the good, the bad and then finding the light in a situation that can seem so dark.”

Small says the success of the performance is due to the hard work of Caldwell and the dancers, but also the SickKids Diabetes Clinic staff who helped recruit. Many of them pointed her in the direction of patients whom they knew had dancing experience.

Dancing was not the only entertainment for the evening. Sixteen-year-old singer and STOMP Clinic patient, Mariah Brooks, closed the opening ceremony with a vocal performance accompanied by an a cappella group.

“I’m honoured that [Hamilton] would ask,” said Brooks, who admitted that before joining STOMP she was very shy and often encountered stage fright. “I didn’t hesitate to say yes because of how much SickKids has done for me.”

As the performances ended in applause, attendees had much to say while making their way to the reception. Daneman, however, summed up the talent displayed in one word – “unbelievable.”