Making a Difference
“The butterfly counts not the months but moments and has time enough.”
– Rabindranath Tagore
The Celebrations of Life were held soon after Leo’s transition, both in Victoria and Coquitlam. We felt honoured that our son was held in such high esteem by those who had met and known him as school friends, teachers, principals, co-workers, and neighbours.
After the initial shock, we knew that Leo would want us to do more than mourn his passing. We talked with everyone who would listen. We collected signatures for a petition. We were comforted by the outpouring of love.
In the summer of 2012, we held a 7-day campaign to raise awareness at the Coquitlam Aquatic Centre where Leo had learned how to swim and later became a life guard and swim instructor. Parents and young people were shocked to hear of the tragedy.
Leo’s young friends also did some wonderful things in his memory.
Brody McDonald created the www.leochanfoundation.com website to honour Leo and raise awareness about meningitis. It is a very informative site and has served us well in raising awareness over the last several years.
Brody also initiated Meningitis Awareness Day on March 4th, 2013 on the UVic campus. He was supported by other good friends and many others in collecting signatures, making posters, and distributing information sheets. They created huge banners and hung them in the main dining room on campus as part of an information evening where they offered a quiz and gave prizes to the students.
Rose Pappas Acremann worked with Res Life and other friends for the creation of a beautiful plaque in honour of Leo. Our son had told us he had the time of his life with these friends he’d made in his first year of university.
Another good friend, Carolyn Moon, wrote an article to The Martlet, the student newspaper at UVic, to appeal to students about the need for the vaccination. As part of her graduation project in Theatre, she wrote and directed a roving play about meningitis to honour her childhood friend.
Trees were planted and benches installed in both Coquitlam and Victoria in memory of Leo. We are thankful to all who have contributed. We know they love Leo.
Lorraine Schoor was instrumental in the planting of the Fragrant Fountain, the unique tree at UVic. She and her coworkers used to see Leo 3 times a day in the Main Dining Room at Residence. This is what she has told us: “Your son’s smile and kind words brighten our day every time he comes into the dining room.”
Leo Chan Memorial Scholarship
Leo had been awarded the 4-year Scholarship of Excellence from the University of Victoria. He’d chosen to go there, turning down scholarships from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. After his passing, friends and family from all parts of the world sent their condolences and donations upon hearing the sad news. To honour our son and his passion for learning, we established the Leo Chan Memorial Scholarship with the money. Currently, it is for students from the Political Science Department at the University of Victoria. Every year, one student is awarded the scholarship. Leo is making a difference in the lives of these past and future recipients.
A Leo Chan Memorial Scholarship was also given to Grade 12 students for 5 years at Pinetree Secondary, Leo’s high school in Coquitlam.
We found out after the fact that there are many different types and strains of meningitis. British Columbia children are vaccinated, but only against the c strain. Leo had only received the c strain vaccination and this did not prevent him from contracting the y strain. The quadrivalent vaccine or Menactra covers 4 strains, the a, c, y, and w strains. It has been available since 2006, but most BC families do not have this information. Parents of students going to universities in other provinces are given consent forms for the vaccine. There is also the b strain, which is now covered by another vaccine. It is most unfortunate that such important information on how to protect our young people is not readily available in this province.
Bacterial meningitis is airborne. Young people, especially males from 15-25, are most susceptible. Another young male aged 23 died two months prior to Leo at a university in Kamloops, and another known case was a 15-year-old boy who died in Coquitlam five years prior to Leo. Both males had contracted the y strain meningitis. Misdiagnosis is often the cause of death and the reason for the low numbers reported. This bacterial infection is so fatal that without preventative measures, death is almost certain. If not, a survivor’s quality of life is often severely affected.
It is senseless to have a young precious life destroyed by a preventable disease. We do not ask for everything to be given freely, but life-saving information should be made accessible to all.
After Leo’s passing, we pledged to raise awareness in BC for the love of all our children and young people. As a result of our tireless advocacy, the BC Legislature adopted the quadrivalent vaccine at the end of April 2016. All Grade 9 students in BC are now entitled to the free vaccine. There is, as of yet, no catch-up program for students who have already gone beyond grade 9.
We have spoken to countless people, including many who were strangers, collecting signatures for the petition. None of the parents we have talked to are aware of this. We continue to spread the word and the message of saving lives, especially young lives.
One of Leo’s friends has said it so well, “Even in death, Leo is making positive changes in the world.”
Thanks to the Centre for Disease Control’s invitation, we co-created a short video in the summer of 2016 with Michael McDonald, telling the story of Leo. Entitled, ‘I Lost My Friend,’ it is on their ‘I Boost Immunity’ website. The goal is to share information about the quadrivalent vaccine and how it can prevent another tragedy.
There is still more work to be done. Parents and young people are still not given the life-saving information that they need to know. The BC Medical System, the Education System, the Political System, the Media, and all the related systems need to work together to educate professionals and the general public on the protection of our young people.
How can you help?
By reading what’s on this website, you have gained the awareness needed to protect yourself and/or your children. You can also visit www.immunizebc.com for more information.
If you are a young person, go to your family doctor and ask for a prescription of the quadrivalent vaccine. By receiving the vaccination, you won’t be able to spread the bacteria. The carrier of the bacteria is not affected. If you are a parent, give the gift of life to your kids and have them vaccinated by the family doctor.
Spread the message.
If you are a student, talk about it at your school or at your college/university campus. Start a campaign. Write about it in your school paper or in a blog.
Ask to have the information shared. Have your school contact the BC Centre for Disease Control for more information.
Write to the dean of your department about raising awareness.
Have the information included as part of the Orientation Package for new students.
Organize a Meningitis Awareness Day at your school or campus.
Contact your Nurses Union.
Contact your local community centre about raising awareness.
Use social media to spread the word and feel free to share this website widely.
Whatever your role/job is, use your unique gifts to raise awareness and protect ourselves, our friends, our children and young people.