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Meet Bradford’s seven-year-old health-care advocate

The third annual Walk for Chiari is taking place next month to raise money for SickKids research on chiari malformation, a structural defect of the skull
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Jennifer Donkin and her son and chiari warrior, Mason, at last year's Walk for Chiari. Miriam King/BradfordToday

At just seven years old, Mason Donkin is a fighter and a health-care advocate.

It is something the Bradford West Gwillimbury boy fell into after being diagnosed with chiari (pronounced kee-ah-ree) malformation a few years ago.

He even sang and danced to the song Fight Song at a school production in the spring.

“That’s the song he refers to as his chiari song,” said his mom, Jennifer Donkin. “He’s an advocate himself. He’s what makes me keep going.”

Jennifer is gearing up for the third annual Walk for Chiari, a fundraiser for chiari research at SickKids Hospital, on July 13 outside the Bradford West Gwillimbury Leisure Centre.

She and Mason will be there, of course, to walk alongside the hundreds of participants expected.

The event will also include bouncy castles, face-painting, a Harvey’s barbecue, live DJ, raffle and silent auction, creative table, and funnel cakes, she said.

Some of the silent-auction prizes include a signed Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, Leafs tickets with an opportunity for kids to meet some players, Miele vacuum, Toronto FC and Toronto Argos tickets, and tablets.

Jennifer said she is hoping to see the event continue to grow and attract more people from outside the community, such as Newmarket.

Chiari malformation, which affects one in 1,000 people, is a structural defect of the skull that causes compression of the cerebellum, the part of the brain that governs balance, and the brain stem.

Symptoms can include headaches, severe muscle weakness and pain, nausea, insomnia, dizziness, and fatigue.

Mason has been dealing with increased neurological symptoms, such as tingling and numbness, more headaches, a urology condition, leg pain that interrupts his sleep, and a tendency to get more colds and ear infections, Jennifer said.

“He’s learning how to cope with the symptoms more now that he’s seven,” she said.

Along with the walk, the Donkin’s have paired with Harvey’s, where people can make donations to chiari research at SickKids and write their names on a purple paper ribbon for chiari awareness, and employees will be wearing Walk for Chiari T-shirts during the two weeks leading up to the event.

“We have a really good support system,” said Jennifer.


WHEN: July 13

TIME: 11 a.m. (walk starts at 11:30 a.m.)

WHERE: Outside Bradford West Gwillimbury Leisure Centre

REGISTER: Sign up online

Anyone who cannot attend the walk can also make a donation online or at Harvey’s in Bradford West Gwillimbury.


Jenni Dunning

About the Author: Jenni Dunning

Jenni Dunning is a community editor and reporter who covers news in the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury.
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