Founder & President, Meagan’s HUG
In 2001, Denise Bebenek and her family lost their 5 yr. old daughter, Meagan, to an inoperable malignant brain tumour. Denise knew that no family should have to walk such a path alone and founded Meagan’s Walk, now known as Meagan’s HUG. The work of Meagan’s HUG has impact globally, changing outcomes for children affected by a brain tumour diagnosis. When Meagan died, Denise envisioned coming back to the hospital with others and embracing the hospital with a human “hug.” This vision became the annual Walk and signature HUG event, Meagan’s Walk. Meagan’s HUG is active year-round, including many initiatives, such as a robust school program, “Kids Helping Kids,” welcomes the support of third-party fundraising groups, and collaborates with community service organizations, like Rotary and Lions Clubs.
Since 2001, Meagan’s HUG has raised more than $6 million and funded many “seed” projects, some leading to seminal discoveries that translate into clinical trials. Research funds also purchase cutting edge equipment, and support the Toronto Brain Network Tissue bank, as well as the Meagan’s HUG Neuro-oncology Fellowship. This Fellowship offers doctors from around the world the opportunity to work with the neuro-oncology team at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). In 2021, Meagan’s HUG celebrated its 20-year anniversary year. Formerly a third-party fundraising organization supporting SickKids, Meagan’s HUG became an independent registered Canadian charity, incorporated as Meagan Bebenek Foundation.