For many people, the names of Marc Fortin, Michel Paquette, Marie-Hélène Roger and Marika Archambault are related to the world of cystic fibrosis through prizes and scholarships given to people in our community. Behind these names are hidden persons that are no longer with us, but that contributed significantly to advance, in their way, the cystic fibrosis field.
Pay honour to whom honour is due. It is in 1985 that Marc Fortin became the first Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Adult Cystic Fibrosis committee of Quebec (ACFCQ) that later became Living with Cystic Fibrosis. Then aged 24, it is with other adults and Laval de Launière, their social worker, who directed our organization. For the time, it was quite a feat: the median age of survival was less than 25 years and Quebec had only 150 persons with cystic fibrosis that were older than 18 years old. As founding president, his actions marked a turning point in the Quebec world of CF, which, until then, had stayed a closed club for the medical community and researchers. It is under his presidency that on September 19th, 1987, a certain Céline Dion visited the directors to show her support. Unfortunately, on December 24th that same year, Marc Fortin passed away at the age of 26.
It is the Quebec Association of Cystic Fibrosis (which later became a division of Cystic Fibrosis Canada) that put together the first Marc-Fortin prize. Awarded every two years, it was received among others by Laval de Launière, who became our director general, and Christian Auclair. In 2000, our organization took back the prize, which would now only go to persons living with cystic fibrosis for their exceptional contribution to the cause. The prize is awarded every three years. Since then, it was given to many people involved in our community. In order, Chantal Germain, Dave St-Pierre (dancer, choreographer and director), Pierre-Alexandre Tremblay, Claire Boulerice, Charlène Blais and Sophie Jacob have seen their names associated with our first president.
Also, the Fondation l’air d’aller gives out a scholarship with his name to persons involved socially in a community organization or in a private or public institution.
It is in 1993 that Michel Paquette became the fifth president of ACFCQ. Being a long-time member of our organization, he was also for many years one of the first and rare members from outside of Montreal! A proud representative of Outaouais, he was a partisan of regions, wanting to avoid a centralization of powers in Montreal. Under his presidency, the organization started pressuring Quebec governments so that Pulmozyme be on the list of covered medications covered by the public medication insurance in Quebec, RAMQ.
The Michel-Paquette prize was created in 2000. It was decided that it would be awarded each year to the person or organization that works in the cystic fibrosis community and that contributed importantly to the wellbeing of the affected population. Many known personalities and groups had the honour of receiving it in the following years: Marcel Barette, France Paquet, Francine Brosseau, Diane Lalonde, Denis Mouton, Dr. Michel Ruel, the Fondation l’air d’aller, the Chambre des notaires du Québec (Quebec Chamber of Notaries), Dr. Alphonse Jeanneret, Dr. André Cantin, Mylène Cloutier, Laval de Launière, the journalist Harold Gagné and the Ordre des infirmières du Québec (Quebec Order of Nurses).
Nature lover, Marie-Hélène Roger completed her studies in biology, in ecology and in environment. That is why a scholarship in these fields bears her name. Not only was she involved in the PCACF as secretary for many years, but also her commitment extended to many committees and environmental organizations. She also proudly represented us as part of the former Canadian Committee on Cystic Fibrosis. Some even called her the ”little lady of great causes”!
Passionate about environmental causes, there was only her to speak with such enthusiasm about recycling, compost and birds: so much so that to save paper, our secretary wrote on both sides of pages from top to bottom and from left to right!
It is with determination that he defended the cause of those living with cystic fibrosis, despite her illness.
She touched the heart of many with her social abilities, her joy for life, her sincerity and her inspiring strength.
It is in memory of Marika Archambault-Wallenburg, exceptional young woman loved by all, that the Fondation l’air d’aller offers a scholarship to science students so that other persons can be inspired by her background and be encouraged by her many qualities.
Marika’s great curiosity brought her to Europe, Guatemala, Nepal, Japan and the United States, alone on her motorcycle, but also brought her to dive head first in her many science books. Her academic path was flawless. The excellence of her academic results gave her many scholarships: admission scholarship to McGill, for her bachelor’s in physics, Canadian scholarship for her master’s in medical biophysics at the University of Toronto and one of the most prestigious Canadian scholarships for her doctoral studies in biomedical engineering at McGill. Cystic fibrosis never stopped her. Marika always followed her objectives, without complaining, for the simplest and most noble reason: the passion of learning!
The quality that best defines her is without doubt perseverance: for accomplishing what she had chosen to do, for pursuing studies as if there was nothing and, mostly, for facing each day with a smile, regardless of the challenges imposed by the deterioration of her health.
Marika’s joy for life shined so much that she contributed to making others happier and better.
Passionate about computer and communications, it is in 2003 that Gaétan Verreault created one of the first Internet forums for persons living with Cystic fibrosis and those interested in their reality. It is in his honour that in the Fall of 2006, the forum he helped put together now bears his nickname, ”Kifar”.
For ten years, before the arrival of social media such as Facebook or Twitter, this forum would be the rallying point for many CF persons that found a way to escape isolation, to benefit from the support of others and, most certainly, to discover exceptional people. Throughout these years, more than 350 persons participated, with more than 6,300 messages to many discussions. His determination and his tenacity contributed to bringing the Quebec CF community together.