February 23, 2019

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Uplift: Luckiest kid in the world

He was a kid in a toy - not candy - store

It would be every child's dream to be able to run through a huge toy store and grab any toy or game you want for free.

Conner Lechocki was recently chosen by the Starlight Children's Foundation of Canada to run through the Toys R Us store on Pembina Highway and grab anything he wanted for free. (SUPPLIED PHOTO)

Conner Lechocki was recently chosen by the Starlight Children's Foundation of Canada to run through the Toys R Us store on Pembina Highway and grab anything he wanted for free.

For nine-year-old Conner Lechocki that's not a dream - that was his reality recently.

Conner was recently chosen by the Starlight Children's Foundation of Canada - which for more than two decades has been dedicated to helping sick children both in and out of hospital - to run through the Toys R Us store on Pembina Highway and grab anything he wanted for free.

You read that right. A kid was able to go to a toy store, look for his favourite toy or two or 40, throw them into a cart, and not have to pay for them.

The only rule? Conner had to do it in three minutes.

Of course, a kid can do a lot in three minutes and for Conner last week three minutes was enough time to fill nine shopping carts full of toys, including a couple of scooters, a PS4, and LEGO.

"I was the luckiest kid in the world," he said earlier this week when we caught up to him.

"I got everything that I wanted and more."

But, and here's the uplifting thing, Conner didn't just think about himself. In fact, he didn't even think about himself first. Or second.

And here's the second uplifting thing about all of this. Conner has cystic fibrosis and he has already faced numerous surgeries and hospital stays during his life.

"The first thing I got was Jurassic World LEGO for a friend," he said.

Then, because his scooter broke earlier this summer, he went to that section.

"I got my brother one and one for me."

Conner's mother, Kendra, said it was actually hard to keep her son focused in the days and weeks before the event that it really was for him.

"It shows the love he shares for everyone else," she said.

"I had to keep reminding him this is for you - not others - but with him he feels so much about others. He is always thinking of others. I'm so proud of him."

It's wonderful when a child with a life threatening condition gets the thrill of being able to grab toys for free. It goes to an even higher level when the child thinks of others before himself.

But that's the type of kid Conner already is. At nine he already has a great set of values, empathy, maturity and charitable spirit.

In fact, what Conner has is what many adults should have.

But, and here's something funny to leave you with, Conner's fun could also be a parent's worst nightmare because his 10th birthday is on Tuesday.

"It's going to be hard figuring out what to get him now," his mother laughed.


Stanley Cup comes to Winnipeg

  • Five-month-old Zane Spittal is lifted into the Stanley Cup by him mother Kara for a photo with Washington Capitals defenceman Madison Bowey after waiting two hours to see him during his home town tour with the cup. (ANDREW RYAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>)

    Five-month-old Zane Spittal is lifted into the Stanley Cup by him mother Kara for a photo with Washington Capitals defenceman Madison Bowey after waiting two hours to see him during his home town tour with the cup.

    Our Winnipeg Jets didn't bring the Stanley Cup home this year - maybe next year - but the cup did come to the Peg on Saturday.

    Professional hockey's Holy Grail came to Winnipeg courtesy of defenceman Madison Bowey, a member of the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, and a player who got his start as a Varsity View Falcon in Winnipeg.

    The 23-year-old Bowey took the cup on tour to his old hockey arena and baseball diamond.

Fringe welcomes Indigenous community

  • The Buffalo Gals Drum Group performs at the Fringe festival free mainstage in Old Market Square this week.  (KYLEE SINCLAIR / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>)

    The Buffalo Gals Drum Group performs at the Fringe festival free mainstage in Old Market Square this week.

    The Indigenous community was welcomed into the Winnipeg Fringe this year.

    For the first time, the festival officially acknowledged that all of its plays were being held on Treaty 1 territory and the Homeland of the Metis people.

    As well, while there have been plays by Indigenous playwrights in the past at times, this year there were four productions with Indigenous content, while the free mainstage had performances by the Buffalo Gals Drum Group.

Pop tabs add up to wheelchairs

  • Marlon Calakhan (from left), Bryce Thiessen, and Luke Savoie show off their wheelchairs in front of Tabs for Wheelchairs founder Gwen Buccini at Holy Cross School. All three received their wheelchairs thanks to the group’s fundraising efforts.</p> (MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>)

    Marlon Calakhan (from left), Bryce Thiessen, and Luke Savoie show off their wheelchairs in front of Tabs for Wheelchairs founder Gwen Buccini at Holy Cross School. All three received their wheelchairs thanks to the group’s fundraising efforts.

    Small things can lead to big things and nothing shows this more than collecting pop tabs to raise money to donate wheelchairs.

    Tabs for Wheelchairs has been doing this for 20 years now and during that time 20 wheelchairs - seven sport wheelchairs and 13 specialized wheelchairs - have been donated to people who need them.

    Founder and co-ordinator Gwen Buccini says the collection depot is now at Trailblazers Life Choices at 1031 Autumnwood Ave.

Winnipeg swimmer heading for international competition

  • Swimmer Sarah Watson says she’s proud of the U of M’s 23rd-place finish, given the small Bisons team.</p> (PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>)

    Swimmer Sarah Watson says she’s proud of the U of M’s 23rd-place finish, given the small Bisons team.

    Sarah Watson swam away with three medals at the Canadian Junior Championship this week.

    But, just like many other children learning how to swim, Watson struggled with her swimming lessons - she needed a couple of tries to get past her a stage in her early lessons.

    Now, Watson will represent Canada at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Fiji later this month and will go to the University of Akron in Ohio on a swim scholarship this fall.

Child helps educate society

  • Mary Rollason-MacAulay, left, with Grant Park High School Principal Susan Anderson, has taught others to interact with the person first instead of focusing on the disability. (KEVIN ROLLASON / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

    Mary Rollason-MacAulay, left, with Grant Park High School Principal Susan Anderson, has taught others to interact with the person first instead of focusing on the disability.

    We'll leave you with an article about how a child living with special needs can not only change the lives of the people around her, but also society.

    Mary Rollason-MacAulay could have died several times during her first days and weeks of life, but she didn't and now she has graduated from high school as an adult.

    But it is the lessons that she has taught people during her life that help to make society better for her, but also for others.

Your weekly squee

At the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, N.Y., twin red panda cubs huddle with each other Tuesday. Belonging to an endangered species found in Asia, the male cubs, born on June 21, 2018, to the zoo's breeding pair of red pandas, mother Tabei and father Ketu, have been named Loofah and Doofah after characters in "The Land Before Time" animated dinosaur film series.

Uplift is published weekly.

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