Manitoba’s first Champion Child from remote First Nations community named

Manitoba’s Children’s Hospital Foundation (CHF) has named this year’s Champion Child — and she’s the first from a remote First Nations community.

On Thursday morning, 15-year-old Janessa Dumas Colomb from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation was chosen to join champion children from across North America and share her story with kids in care.

140,000 children need to go to Winnipeg for care at Winnipeg’s Children’s Hospital every year, CHF said, adding 60 per cent of these children are Indigenous.

“I hope when I share my story it can help other kids get the surgery and treatment they need so they can also go home and enjoy the things that they love doing.” Colomb said.

“My journey is not just about the health care I needed, but the distance I needed to get that health care and how important the children’s hospital is to all the kids in our province,” she added.

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Around the time she was six years old, Colomb said she was starting to get sick often, and would sometimes be in a lot of pain.

“I was very tired and couldn’t play with my friends,” she said through tears.

The nursing station in her community wasn’t able to figure out what was happening, and so her parents took her to the nearest hospital in The Pas, which was a five-hour train ride away, she said.

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“The doctors there said I needed the special doctors and nurses who can help kids best at the Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg.” Winnipeg is over 800km from her community.

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But they went.

CHF said by the time she turned seven, Colomb had Stage 4 kidney disease with 25-per cent kidney function that only kept decreasing.

“It got so bad that two different times I had to be flown by a medical helicopter from The Pas to the Children’s Hospital,” Colomb said. “It was very scary.”

To make sure she kept getting care at Manitoba’s only children’s hospital, the foundation said her family uprooted from their hometown to stay in the province’s capital, where she was put on a transplant list.

“We were trying very hard to prevent me from going on dialysis, because my kidneys dropped to only 10 per cent function,” the Champion Child said.

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CHF said she finally had a kidney transplant in 2020.

“I started to feel better,” Colomb said, and added she named her new kidney Bob. “Bob is my inspiration and my hero because Bob is the reason I started to feel better.”

She still needed to swing by the hospital several times a week to check in on her knew friend, but eventually she was given the all-clear to go home.

Now, Colomb said she comes to Winnipeg for a check-up once every two months.

“I get to see my friends and my family, and do all the things I love like fishing and snowmobiling,” she said.

“By choosing Janessa, we illuminate the health challenges and barriers faced by children in Manitoba’s remote and isolated communities, an effort that has not been undertaken in our history,” said Stefano Grande, president of Manitoba’s CHF.

“Janessa breaks some important ground as our Champion Child as she adds very meaningful and needed representation of the many children we care for. We at the Children’s Hospital Foundation are grateful to her and her family for taking on the role this year,” he said.

The 15-year-old will be doing some travel so she can speak at events and share her story. The organization says she’ll even head down to Orlando in Florida in April for Children’s Hospital Week with other champions across Canada and the United States.

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“Manitoba’s Champion Child for 2024, and the first Champion Child to be chosen from a northern First Nations community, I want all the other kids who need Children’s Hospital — from anywhere in our province — to get the health care they need, like I did,” Colomb said.

Donations to help kids like Colomb can be made at To donate directly to Janessa’s fundraising efforts, visit

Click to play video: 'HSC’s ‘Champion Child’ raises $34,000 for Children’s Hospital'

HSC’s ‘Champion Child’ raises $34,000 for Children’s Hospital

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