Chefs with Hart
Fundraiser benefits Sick Kids GIFT program
With his ready smile and twinkling eyes, Hartley Bernier looks like any typical eight-year-old—until you notice the plastic tubes leading to an IV pole and a bag of fluid.
Hartley was born with intestinal failure and has endured 17 surgeries since birth. Prior to 2002, babies such as Hartley had only a 30 per cent survival rate to age three. But thanks to the Group for Improvement of Intestinal Function and Treatment (GIFT) program developed by Dr. Paul Wales at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, that survival rate has risen to 98 percent.
Hartley is unable to properly digest or absorb food. As a result, he needs at least 4,000 calories a day to maintain his health. He is also severely restricted in the amount of liquid he can ingest—just a few ounces— and so requires a constant IV drip to keep him hydrated, as well provide essential nutrients.
Hartley is a volunteer ambassador with Sick Kids. It was his question that prompted his parents, Daniel and Ashley, to create Chefs with Hart, an organization that benefits the GIFT program. “[Hartley] volunteered at a variety of events and said, ‘Why isn’t there anything to support people with intestinal failure?’ and we really didn’t have a good answer for him at that time,” says Daniel. “And we said, you know what, let’s change that. So together with some culinary friends in Toronto, we started our first event in partnership with [Toronto restaurant] Sweet Jesus, and that kind of grew from there.”
The focus on food was no accident—Hartley needs a wide and varied diet to ensure the best possible health outcome. “We’ve tried from a very young age to get him to enjoy a variety of foods, to be eating all the time,” says Daniel. “So food has totally become a passion for him, and he will try anything and he eats all the time.”
Hartley’s aunt and uncle, Tania Kolesnik and Dustin Coldicott, own County Collective in Bloomfield, and they approached Neil Dowson at County Road Beer Garden about creating a fundraising event for Chefs with Hart.
“We kind of created it around the idea of getting some chefs involved in a small, local thing and it kind of snowballed into what it is now. Over 35 chefs, breweries and wineries are here,” says Kolesnik. “We had a hundred tickets, which sold within the two-week mark. And everything is going to benefit the GIFT program at Sick Kids Hospital.”
The chefs, wineries and breweries donated their time and products at the fundraiser held last Wednesday at County Road Beer Garden. On that pleasant and cool evening, patrons enjoyed the offerings of 18 County chefs and their assistants, four breweries and eight wineries, and could place bids on a range of silent auction items. The event raised over $14,000 for the GIFT program.
Hartley has two younger brothers, and his parents are grateful for all the support they have received.
“The team has actually trained my wife and I to do all of the medical care that Hartley requires at home,” says Daniel. “So we really do rely on each other a lot to get through it. The other thing that we’ve been fortunate to come into through all this is some great support systems. So relying on the family through the tough times is essential, absolutely essential.”