'Memories for a lifetime': Lifters make dream come true for toddler with cancer

A two-year-old girl living with leukemia and her family are heading on a trip of a lifetime thanks to the heavy lifting of a one-of-a-kind fundraiser held in Winnipeg this weekend.

Deadlift competition raises money for trip of a lifetime

Maya Chernichan, two, and her dad Vince were all smiles at a fundraising deadlift competition held Saturday to help pay for a dream vacation for the family. (CBC)

A two-year-old girl living with leukemia and her family are heading on a trip of a lifetime thanks to the heavy lifting of a one-of-a-kind fundraiser held in Winnipeg this weekend.

Twenty-three deadlifters from across Manitoba and North Dakota took part in a fundraising deadlift competition Saturday— and the athletes raised more than just barbells.

In all, participants brought in more than $20,000 to help the Dream Factory send two-year-old Maya Chernichan and her family on a Disney vacation.

"We're just very grateful to everyone who participated and did fundraising — it's amazing to see and be a part of," said Maya's dad Vince Chernichan at the competition held at Midtown Barbell.

Maya was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia last August and has been undergoing treatment ever since.

Vince and Sarah Chernichan say they're grateful for everyone who helped put together Saturday's fundraiser. (CBC)

The diagnosis came as a surprise, said Maya's mom Sarah.

"She'd been sick for a while but this is not at all what we'd been expecting," she said.

"It was definitely a huge shock for us."

But the Chernichans are now looking forward to a trip they hadn't expected to be able to take.

The family became involved with the Dream Factory — a Manitoba-based charity that works to make dreams come true for kids with life-threatening illnesses — after a  friend sent in an application on Maya's behalf shortly after her diagnosis.

Maya Chernichan, two, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia last summer. (CBC)

The charity means a lot to that friend, says Sarah.

"We didn't know at the time but she also had leukemia when she was five-years-old, that was just over 30 years ago and she had a dream fulfilled by the Dream Factory," said Sarah.

"She did this because she remembers going through the treatment and having something like this to look forward to."

'An incredible thing'

Midtown Barbell owner Dave Beakley said he knew he wanted to hold the fundraiser after meeting staff from the Dream Factory and learning about the work they do.

"I love that they're 100 per cent Manitoban, fulfilling dreams for kids and helping families who may not be able to provide that experience — I think it's just an incredible thing," he told CBC News. "This is beyond what I expected, and it's absolutely incredible."

Beakley says he hopes to make the fundraiser an annual event.

Midtown Barbell owner Dave Beakley says he wants to make the fundraiser an annual event. (CBC)

It's an event Andrew Kussy with the Dream Factory says is totally new for the charity.

"I don't know that there's been another thing like this in Winnipeg," he said as competitors grunted and groaned and lifted hundreds of pounds of weights behind him.

"When we met Dave and we saw his powerlifting community we really wanted to match him with one of our smallest, cutest dreamers — and that was Maya for sure."

The original goal was to raise $10,000 to cover the cost of the family trip and expenses.

But Kussy says because competitors raised more than double the goal, the charity will be able to help fulfil the dream of a second Manitoba family like the Chernichans.

"This is an event that just keeps on giving," he said.

Powerlifter Candace Daher came to the competition wearing a Wonder Woman outfit, just like Maya. (CBC)

Candace Daher took part in the competition wearing a Wonder Woman outfit — just like the one Maya wore when she came to meet those taking part.

Daher said she vowed to wear the super hero costume if she was able to raise $2,000 in donations and she ended up bringing in $2,600 for the cause.

"I just hope that it makes her and her family happy," she said.

"I hope they do something wonderful and have memories for a lifetime."

More from CBC Manitoba:

With files from Mathilde Monteyne


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