Meet the 2 Calgary women who earned Terry Fox Humanitarian Awards this year

Maddison Tory and Ye-Jean Park are both recipients of the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award. The scholarship is awarded to inspiring young humanitarians who emulate Fox’s courage and determination through volunteer work.

Maddison Tory and Ye-Jean Park are students passionate about volunteer work

Ye-Jean Park, left, and Maddison Tory are two recipients of this year's Terry Fox Humanitarian Award. (Submitted by Ye-Jean Park and Maddison Tory)

When Calgarian Maddison Tory was 13, she had to undergo heart surgery. 

The hospital was a scary place for her, and when she looked around, she noticed a lot of other kids struggling on their own health care journeys too.

The experience prompted Tory to create HUGS, a program committed to improving kids' mental health and quality of life during their hospital stays. 

"For kids in hospital, activities like your normal sleepovers or snowball fights, they're all being replaced with needles and IVs, and I wanted to be able to find a way to change that narrative," she said in an interview on The Homestretch.

Tory, now in Grade 12, is one of two Calgary recipients of the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award. The scholarship is awarded to inspiring young people who emulate Fox's courage and determination through volunteer work. 

Ye-Jean Park, a third-year health sciences student at the University of Calgary, is the second recipient from the city. She's the co-founder of the Home Food Community Kitchen, the university's first youth-led food education club.

Through the initiative, they provide students with free meal kits and lessons on how to cook healthy, affordable and culturally diverse meals.

"I've just really felt empowered throughout my entire educational and personal journey to have had amazing support from mentors and to be able to really stand on the shoulders of giants and grow as a person," she said.

"I really wanted to give back and take what I've learned to empower others."

Believe it or not, the above projects are just a small portion of the volunteer work done by these two humanitarians. 

Maddison Tory

Tory has made several visits to the hospital over her lifetime so far. She has lupus, and said she knows what it feels like to miss out on childhood experiences.

Through her fundraising for HUGS, she's been able to create several "distraction" events for kids, including superhero nights, princess tea parties and Build-A-Bear workshops. Recently, the program also helped to turn patients' drawings into real-life stuffed animals.

"I've had times where moms would come up to me as they watched their little daughters dance with the princesses," she said.

Maddison Tory is the founder of HUGS, a program that improves the lives of children staying in the hospital. (Submitted by Maddison Tory)

"One of the moms came up and told me that since her daughter was diagnosed with leukemia, she hasn't seen her dance or smile…and this brought her the ability to smile and have a normal break."

As part of the initiative, Tory wrote a children's empowerment book called, Your Secret Superpower: Ignite your SPARK.

"The book aims to challenge children to discover their own passions and make the world a better place," she said, adding all of the proceeds go to HUGS events.

Tory is also a coach with the Special Olympics for rhythmic gymnastics, a volunteer with Ronald McDonald House and an advisory board member with the Alberta Children's Hospital.

"That's also why this scholarship means so much to me, because it makes it so that I don't have to hold a part-time job and can instead focus all my energies on my academics and also on my leadership and volunteer initiatives."

Tory plans to attend the University of Calgary, and she hopes to have a career in medicine.

Ye-Jean Park

For Ye-Jean Park, winning the Terry Fox Humanitarian award is a dream come true.

Throughout the pandemic, she's used the food club to spread awareness about the importance of eating nutritious meals.

"I think being able to witness firsthand and experience the challenges of when my parents were having a family restaurant and then subsequently experiencing some financial struggles with that and cultural struggles … I think that's really been what first motivated me to try and really do my best in helping others," she said.

Park also works with CanShine Tutoring — a nonprofit aimed at bringing free or subsidized tutoring lessons to underprivileged youth — and mentors other young students, including helping them with public speaking.

Ye-Jean Park started the Home Food Community Kitchen, a food club at the University of Calgary, and she's also a tutor and cello player. She's pictured here with her family. (Submitted by Ye-Jean Park)

"I do love to help…students to gain more confidence in becoming more active advocates in their own communities," she said.

Music also plays a large role in Park's life. She's a cello player, performing regularly at local seniors homes. 

It's a passion inspired by her grandfather, who had Parkinson's disease, but loved music.

"I was able to communicate beyond really what words can express," she said.

"I wanted to continue conveying my empathy and my connection to seniors and our community, particularly during the pandemic."

Ye-Jean is pursuing a medical degree and is currently researching treatments for dogs with cancer.

She hopes to become a clinician-scientist, while continuing to follow her passions in music, writing and public speaking.

With files from Huyana Cyprien


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