Dream Factory co-founder battles terminal cancer, inspires living memorial campaign

Co-founder of the Dream Factory in Winnipeg, Michelle Harrison, has inspired a living memorial campaign for the charity as she faces terminal cancer.

The factory is a non-profit that gives kids facing life-threatening illnesses unforgettable experiences.

In 1983, Harrison says she helped arrange for a young boy with brain cancer to meet his idol, Wayne Gretzky.

Now battling terminal lung cancer, Harrison says she wants to spend her remaining time giving back and is aiming to raise $60,000 for the factory as part of her living memorial campaign.

“I feel like I’m going to pass away with some sense of, look, I did something for the kids that I worked with for many years. And leaving this legacy behind with the Dream factory, of 40 years, just seemed the best thing to do,” she said.

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Click to play video: '‘Tower climb’ prepares to raise funds for the Dream Factory'

‘Tower climb’ prepares to raise funds for the Dream Factory

Executive director Andrew Kussy says that money will go towards creating more dreams for kids.

“We’re trying to do as much as we can so we can continue to be an organization that says yes to each and every child and family that we meet and never have to put a limit on what a dream can be, or how many kids and families we’re able to help,” he added.

The wishes range from a trip to Disneyland to a pet or a makeover for their bedroom. Kussy says the demand has skyrocketed with over 70 referrals for kids this year, up from 28 last year.

Harrison says giving kids something to hope for and look forward to is very important. “It was incredibly rewarding, especially talking to the children, and hearing how their wish panned out, and how happy they were. And the family, because it is really going through the whole thing with the child.”

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More than 1,000 wishes have been granted in the past 40 years and Harrison wants to see the factory grant 1,000 more. She says working with the kids has made her own mortality easier to face.

“I learned about grace, I learned about not being afraid — there was a lot I learned about the children  that I’m able to carry forward with my own situation.”

— with files from Global’s Katherine Dornian

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