Need to talk to someone? Call us at (587) 782-3259 or email us to connect.

Need to talk to someone? 

Call us at (587) 782-3259 or email us to connect.

WCCHN Presents BoostUp: A Cardiac Pitch Competition

Great ideas deserve a boost.

Do you have an idea about how to help cardiac kids or their families? Is your pediatric heart project ready to take the next step? Stop waiting for the pieces to fall into place – get the boost you need to launch and succeed from WCCHN.

BoostUp is a unique and entirely virtual pediatric cardiac pitch competition designed to give good ideas a leg up. Innovators and change-makers across Western Canada are invited to pitch their ideas for a chance to receive seed funding up to $10,000.

Open to the entire WCCHN community, BoostUp is the embodiment of our commitment to supporting grassroots ideas that can positively impact the lives of cardiac children and families in Western Canada. Whether you’re a clinician, hospital administrator, care provider, parent or member of the public, if you have a good idea, we want to hear it!

February is Heart Month and BoostUp takes place during CHD Awareness Week which is held each year from February 7-14. The inaugural BoostUp virtual pitch competition took place on February 8, 2022.

The next one is planned for Heart Month and CHD Awareness Week 2025. Applications to pitch are already open.

Ideas change lives. What’s yours?

2024 Event Recap

The Third annual WCCHN BoostUp Pitch Competition was a phenomenal event and a huge success. This year WCCHN decided to look backwards and scooped up six previous All-Stars for a second shot at the win. Finalists were split into two categories, New and Notable gave three past applicants the opportunity to pitch for the first time and Back by Popular Demand brought back three past finalists.

Awarded live that evening, over $30,000 in funding will be distributed to help support important heart projects. Three prize categories included the Audience Favorite, Judge’s Choice: New and Notable, and Judge’s Choice: Back by Popular Demand, as well as a $500 Pay-it-Forward Raffle for the audience. Our finalists are generating energy, changing the conversation, and growing good things for our heart community.

Winning pitches:

Audience Favourite – Tiny HeartsCan Foundation: Hands-On Sonographer
Training: Alberta Pilot

Heart Defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting 1 in 100 infants, but unfortunately, approximately half of all defects are NOT detected before birth. With funding, we will provide 5 free hands-on, specialized training sessions for sonographers, teaching them how to better, and more accurately detect heart defects in infants during regular obstetrical ultrasounds. Because rural detection rates are lower, we will focus these initiatives in the following locations;
Fort McMurray, High Level, Red Deer, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat.

Project Team Members:

  • Amy Porter, Executive Director – Tiny HeartsCan Foundation

Stollery Children’s Hospital: (Edmonton, AB)

  • Dr. Lisa Hornberger
  • Dr. Luke Eckersley
  • Dr. Angela McBrien

Alberta Children’s Hospital: (Calgary, AB)

  • Dr. Deborah Fruitman
  • Dr. Lindsay Mills

Judge’s Choice Award: New and Notable –

With advances in technology and treatment strategies, approximately 85% of patients with congenital heart disease survive to adulthood. Improved survival has led to increased recognition of learning disabilities and developmental delay. Current evidence supports the need to integrate developmental care as a standard of care in the PCICU. The PCICU MIND Program is comprised of a multidisciplinary team, focused on optimizing brain development and promote family bonding in the PCICU.

Project Team Members:

Stollery Children’s Hospital: (Edmonton, AB)

  • Veena Sivarajan, Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Dr. Lindsay Ryerson

  • Sara Periche, RN, PCICU

  • PCICU MIND Working Group


Judge’s Choice Award: Back by Popular Demand – Keeping Your Cutting Edge

Exceptional care comes from investment in faculty education and support to keep the Cardiac Program on the cutting of edge of the latest developments in our specialty. Although such resources exist for most physicians and surgeons, resources to advance our front line (nurses, respiratory specialists, dieticians, physiotherapists) are limited as is their time. In terms of return on investment, taking 3 individuals to an international meeting to see a few experts may cost upward of $5000 in terms of registration and travel costs. For half that cost, we can bring an expert to one of our WCCHN institutions and have them spend a number of days intertwined in our care dynamic to help elevate our team-based care. This can be a combine didactic and interactive engagement. The hope is that this can touch all aspects of the WCCHN Centres and all specialties over time.

Project Team Members:

Stollery Children’s Hospital: (Edmonton, AB)

  • V. Ben Sivarajan MD MS FRCPC, Medical Director, Pediatric Cardiac ICU
2023 Event Recap

The second annual WCCHN BoostUp Pitch Competition was a wonderful event that built on its inaugural success. From the submitted applications, 6 finalists were selected to pitch for a chance to win in one of 3 prize categories. Over $28,500 in funding was awarded and distributed to help support important heart projects. Three prize categories included the Audience Favorite, Judge’s Choice, and Alumni’s Pick, as well as a $500 Pay-it-Forward Raffle for the audience.

Winning pitches:

Audience Favourite – Virtual Heart Connection: Fontan Family Camp

The Virtual Heart Connection is a virtual heart camp that began during the pandemic to connect children who have a single ventricle and a Fontan operation. Through several successful virtual camps in 2020-2022, they helped these children to build a community of peers with similar heart conditions so they could learn from each other and feel less isolated. Dr. George Slim and his team proposed to expand their virtual camp into an in-person Fontan Family camp, free for both children with Fontan heart surgery and their families to attend on an annual basis.

Project Team Members:

  • Dr Christopher Spence & Dr George Slim (Pediatric Cardiology Residents, Stollery Children’s Hospital, University of Alberta)
  • Dr Manisha Bhardia (General Pediatrics Resident, Stollery Children’s Hospital, University of Alberta)
  • Lucy Harris (Medical Student, University of Alberta)
  • Jody Gingrich (transition nurse, Alberta Health Services)
  • Dr Edythe Tham & Dr Carolina Escudero (Pediatric Cardiologists, Stollery Children’s Hospital), supervisors

Our Team has acquired the support of the following organizations:

  • Heart Beats Children’s Society
  • Canadian Congenital Heart Alliance (CCHA)
  • Children’s Heart network of BC Society

Click here to watch our post-project interview with Dr. George Slim, along with some special guests, discussing the impact this project had. 

Judge’s Choice Award – Modified Fat Breastmilk: A Family Centred Strategy for Chylothorax

Chylothorax is a condition in which fat-rich lymphatic fluid called chyle accumulates within the chest from the digestive system. This postoperative complication prolongs a patient’s length of hospital stay due to longer drainage times before the chest tube can be removed. The first step in treatment of chylothorax is changing to a lower fat diet. Alanna Ash and her team of Registered Dieticians propose to reduce the fat content in breastmilk via centrifuge to allow breastfed infants with a diagnosis of chylothorax to continue to receive their mother’s milk.

Project Team Members:

Stollery Children’s Hospital: (Edmonton, AB)

  • Pediatric Cardiology (4C): Alanna Ash – NP, Stephanie Lavoie – RD, Dr. Luke Eckersley – MD
  • PCICU: Dr. Lindsay Ryerson – MD & Brittney Bernard – RD
  • NICU: Dr. Dalal Abdelgadir – MD & Jennifer Flowers – RD

Alberta Children’s Hospital: (Calgary, AB)

  • Dr. Ravneet Sekhon – MD & Roxanne Chabun – RD

Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital: (Saskatoon, SK)

  • Dr. Charissa Pockett – MD & Kellie Frey – RD

Click here to watch our post-project interview with Alanna Ash discussing the impact this project had.

Alumni’s Pick – Digital Storytelling Workshop: Stories of Young Adults with CHD

A digital story is a 2-to-4-minute movie created with images and video clips, voiceover narration, and music to help individuals create authentic digital stories that enhance resilience. They create an opportunity to meet, make meaningful connections with peers who have similar experiences and create a resource for other patients and families to benefit from in the future. Kristy Wolfe and her team proposed to lead a digital storytelling workshop for six young adults with congenital heart disease.

Project Team Members:

  • Kristy Wolfe – CHD Parent & Digital Storytelling Facilitator
  • Kristina McGuire – CHD Parent, Nurse, Patient Researcher
  • Vittorio Borrelli – Community Leader, Adult with lived experience

Click here to watch our post-project interview with Kristy Wolfe, along with Kristina McGuire from Heart Beats Children’s Society of Calgary, discussing the impact this project had.

2022 Event Recap

The inaugural WCCHN BoostUp Pitch Competition was an astounding success! 19 applications for funding were submitted, 8 finalists were selected to pitch and 4 judges awarded over $30,000 in seed funding to support important heart projects.



Winning pitches:

Audience Favourite – The 3D Heart Project

By combining their work on 3D printed heart models with an online open education forum, this project will improve teaching and learning for congenital heart disease at all levels – from patients and families to the teams who care for them.


  • Carolina Escudero (Pediatric Cardiologist, Asst. Professor of Pediatrics, Stollery Children’s Hospital and University of Alberta)
  • Charles Larson (Pediatric Intensivist, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Program Director for Pediatric Critical Care)
  • Cody Wesley (Designer, University of Alberta, Academic Technologies)
  • Trina Bloemen (Designer, University of Alberta, Academic Technologies)
  • Nicole Pernal (Designer, University of Alberta, Academic Technologies)
  • Patrick von Hauff (Designer, University of Alberta, Academic Technologies)
  • Michael McNally (Associate Professor, Faculty of Education)
  • Michelle Noga (Radiologist, Professor of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging, MAHI MIC Chair in Cardiac Imaging, Stollery Children’s Hospital and University of Alberta)
  • Jared Sheridan (Pediatric Cardiology Subspecialty Resident, University of Alberta)


  • Brianne Hall (patient partner)
  • Kim Myers (Pediatric Cardiologist, Alberta Children’s Hospital)
  • David Patton (Pediatric Cardiologist, Alberta Children’s Hospital)


  • Robert Hood (Echocardiographer, Royal University Hospital, Saskatoon)


  • Daryl Schantz (Pediatric Cardiologist, Children’s Heart Center, HSC Winnipeg)


  • Kevin Harris (Pediatric Cardiologist, BC Children’s Hospital)


  • Jennifer Graham (Interim President, Canadian Congenital Heart Alliance [CCHA])


Judge’s Choice Award – CHAMPS Camp

CHAMPS Camp in Saskatchewan is tried, tested and true. By establishing a formal model, backed by evidence and research, this type of child-focused cardiac rehab could be replicated more easily in other parts of the Network. This means even more kids will benefit from the physical activity, heart health, and mental health supports they need to be able to look after themselves as they grow into adulthood.

Mending Little Hearts Fund of Saskatchewan:

  • Dana Lahti
  • Lynne Telfer
  • Juanita Praksas
  • Anna Maton

Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital:

  • Dr. Charissa Pockett
  • Dr. Tim Bradley
  • Dr. Scott Pharis
  • Marie Penner, RN

University of Saskatchewan:

  • Dr. Marta Erlandson
  • Dr. Corey Tomczak

University of Regina:

  • Dr. Kristi Wright


Wildcard – Western Canadian Single Ventricle Registry

By leveraging the existing connection across network sites, this registry will advance the care of infants, children and adolescents with single ventricle forms of congenital heart disease by collecting and analyzing the data. This will lead to innovation in quality improvement, increased research engagement and efficiency, and improved patient outcomes.

Stollery Children’s Hospital:

  • Cardiology: Andrew Mackie, Jennifer Conway, Carolina Escudero, Joseph Atallah, Konstantin Averin, Leanne Meakins, Lisa Hornberger, Luke Eckersley, Michael Khoury, Simon Urschel
  • NICU: Matt Hicks
  • PCICU: Lindsay Ryerson
  • Cardiac Anesthesia: Paula Holinski
  • Cardiac Surgery: Mohammed Al Aklabi

Mazankowski Adult Congenital Cardiology:

  • Isabelle Vonder Muhll

Children’s Heart Center, HSC Winnipeg:

  • Dion Pepelassis

BC Children’s Hospital Pediatric Cardiology: 

  • Steven Rathgeber

Alberta Children’s Hospital Pediatric Cardiology: 

  • Steven Greenway

Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Pediatric Cardiology: 

  • Tim Bradley

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