Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fulfilled dream spurs his giving

Cancer survivor helps group that boosted him in illness

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Dream Factory volunteer Kyle Romaniuk had cancer as a child and was given his wish to swim with dolphins.

SARAH TAYLOR / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Dream Factory volunteer Kyle Romaniuk had cancer as a child and was given his wish to swim with dolphins. Photo Store

Kyle Romaniuk is passionate about volunteering for the Dream Factory because he's experienced its good work first-hand.

Doctors found a tumour on Romaniuk's shoulder when he was 12, and he was diagnosed with a type of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma. Two years of chemotherapy and six months of radiation treatment followed. It was a horrible experience that made him extremely sick and changed his family's life.

The Dream Factory, a Winnipeg charity that fulfils the dreams of children battling life-threatening illness, provided respite from the hellish treatments when it granted Romaniuk's wish to swim with dolphins.

SSLqAll those bad memories fade over time, but the good memories created by that (trip) remain strong throughout the years'

Romaniuk, who had always been interested in marine biology, travelled to the Florida Keys with his parents and sister. They visited a research centre where they got to learn about dolphins as well as get in the water with the majestic mammals.

It was a tremendous experience that trumped the pain of undergoing treatment.

"All those bad memories fade over time, but the good memories created by that (trip) remain strong throughout the years," said Romaniuk. "Real life at that time revolved around the hospital. When you're on the trip, that evaporates and you're a family again, being kids and having fun."

Today, Romaniuk is cancer-free and married with two young children. The 38-year-old works as vice-president of corporate initiatives at the CHR Group, a marketing company. For the past four years, he has volunteered on the Dream Factory's board of directors and now serves as its president.

He got involved with the board when the Dream Factory approached Cocoon, a branding agency where Romaniuk worked. They did not know Romaniuk was a former so-called dream kid. When the connection was made, the company donated some of its time to helping the Dream Factory revitalize its brand and marketing strategy, and Romaniuk joined the board.

As president of the Dream Factory's board of directors, Romaniuk's responsibilities include promoting events, participating on the auction committee to raise money, and reviewing all completed dreams as well as pending dreams for approval as required.

Romaniuk is passionate about making children's dreams come true and notes not every family the organization works with is as fortunate as his was: Some children don't survive their illnesses.

"For those families that aren't lucky enough to still have their child, I think the happiness and joy from that dream is so important," he said. "I can't imagine not having those moments to remember your child and your family."

Since the organization was established in 1983 under the name the Rainbow Society, the Dream Factory has helped create memories for more than 500 families. All of the money it raises stays in Manitoba to help local children.

The Dream Factory is looking for volunteers to help with special events. Anyone interested can call 204-989-4010 for more information.


If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 21, 2014 B2

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