Your 2024 Manitoba Champion Child

First teen from remote northern community to represent Manitoba as Champion Child

Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba announces 2024 Champion Child from Pukatawagan

Treaty One Territory, Winnipeg MB (March 14, 2024) – Today at the Agowiidiwinan Centre, Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba announced Manitoba’s 2024 Champion Child, Janessa Dumas Colomb. Fifteen-year-old Janessa, from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation in Pukatawagan is the first Champion Child chosen in Manitoba who lives in a remote northern First Nations community. She will share her health story at a variety of events to represent more than 140,000 children who need HSC Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg each year, up to 60 per cent of whom are Indigenous.

“I am very excited to be selected as the Champion for my Children’s Hospital. I am ready to share my story to help in a good way so other kids like me get the same great care that I had,” says Janessa.

“Janessa represents the best of who we are as Manitobans,” says Premier Wab Kinew. “By sharing her story of resilience with people across our province, she is helping us build a better future and live up to the belief that every child matters.”

“We are so pleased to have Janessa represent the many children who need our Children’s Hospital. She has shown great resilience in her health journey and willingness to help others,” says Stefano Grande, President & CEO of Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba. 

“Children from all our communities represent gifts of the present and future. Janessa is an example of how when we provide the best healthcare to kids, and help them thrive, we can give better futures.”

Starting at age five, Janessa experienced recurrent urinary tract infections. At HSC Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg, doctors told the family that Janessa’s kidneys weren’t functioning properly; one was small, and the other was diseased. By age seven, Janessa had reached Stage 4 kidney disease with 25 percent kidney function that continued to decline. Recognizing the need to be closer to the specialized pediatric care at Manitoba’s only children’s hospital, Janessa’s parents moved the family 800 km from their community in Pukatawagan to Winnipeg. After support from pediatric nephrology specialists at Children’s Hospital and a successful kidney transplant in 2020, Janessa is doing well and back home with family and friends. She is happy to be doing all the things she loves, like fishing, snowmobiling and fancy shawl dancing.

“Janessa is such a deserving choice for Champion Child. She suffered significant pain and challenges with her health in her younger years, but she has always shown resilience. Her family has shared her story over the past few years with Children’s Hospital Foundation to support the Children’s Hospital, and now Janessa is stepping up to speak for other kids, many who are Indigenous, who need care like she did,” says Dr. Patricia Birk, Professor and Head, Department of Pediatrics & Child Health, Provincial Specialty Lead, Pediatrics, Child Health, Shared Health Manitoba, and one of the nephrology specialists in Janessa’s care.

Grande says the Foundation team members that support the Champion Child program in Manitoba have done significant work over the past few years in working with many families to better share and represent the diversity in the children the hospital serves. The full Foundation team has also committed to continued learning and action in reconciliation, supported by the Indigenous Advisory Circle to the Foundation.

Janessa and her family are part of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, in Pukatawagan, Manitoba; a remote northern Cree community, located 210 km north of the The Pas and 819 km northwest of the City of Winnipeg.

“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. 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,” says Grande.

Being a Champion Child means that Janessa joins a group of child and youth ambassadors from across North America that support their local children’s hospitals. The Canadian Champion program is part of Children’s Miracle Network, one of the signature Canada’s Children’s Hospitals Foundations (CCHF) programs.

“It is wonderful to see the diversity of care reflected in Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba’s work,” says Adam Starkman, President & Chief Executive Officer, Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations.  “Janessa’s story is an inspiration for children and families who travel from afar for healthcare, communities throughout Manitoba, and everyone across Canada.”

Janessa will attend several speaking events this year to share her story – including a trip to Orlando, Florida from April 7 – 12 for Children’s Hospitals Week with other Champions from Canada and the U.S. -– and she has her own fundraising page at to raise funds for critical ongoing needs at HSC Children’s Hospital in Manitoba.  

“I have learned that most of the tools and special spaces that doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital need to help kids get well, is because people – like you – give donations and support to Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba,” says Janessa.

“We’re proud of Janessa from the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation. She is resilient, courageous and an ambassador for children that need inspiration from their peers during extremely difficult times in hospital. We commend Janessa for standing up for those who can’t and sharing her stories of overcoming major health issues to promote children’s healthcare and hospitals,” says AFN National Chief, Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak.

The event today also launched another important piece of the Foundation’s reconciliation actions emphasizing community engagement and culturally sensitive care. Children’s Hospital Foundation brand graphic elements will now include Indigenous-created elements representative of First Nations, Métis  and Inuit cultures including beading style florals (buttercup, wild rose, fireweed blossom, arctic cotton), traditional medicines (sage, tobacco, cedar and sweetgrass) and other graphic elements such as winding vines with mouse tracks and seeds.

“We worked with a wonderful Indigenous graphic artist Leticia Spence and through guidance of the Indigenous Advisory Circle to the Foundation to develop meaningful graphics that fit the light, fun and supportive tone for all kids who need care at Children’s Hospital,” says Kathryn McBurney, Director of Communications & Marketing, Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba. “We thank the designer, our IAC, and our Board for supporting this added visual representation for the children we serve.”

Some of the new design elements are featured in Janessa’s Champion Child trading card, that Janessa will hand out as she attends and speaks at events throughout the year.

To help kids like Janessa, please donate at To donate directly to Janessa’s fundraising efforts for the hospital that saved her life, visit

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