They took their little shovels and buckets and showed us all – including Saskatchewan’s Premier – how a sod-turning for a maternal and children’s hospital should be done.

Children took centre stage at the official groundbreaking for the Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan, held at the construction site beside Royal University Hospital on September 25.

Protected by a fence from the actual construction area and outfitted with colourful hardhats, pails and shovels, children, teenagers and their families crouched in the sand and filled up some buckets to show the world that construction of their hospital has officially begun.  One even took the time to instruct Premier Brad Wall how to fill a bucket.

Children and families are filmed by the media at the site of the groundbreaking.

A large crowd of children and adults gathered together to break ground on the Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan at the ceremony.

Mother and child are interviewed by a reporter.

Kimberley Camboia, a parent who assisted with the design of the Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan, and her daughter Aleina are interviewed before the groundbreaking ceremony on September 25.

This highlight of the short ceremony came after words from a variety of speakers which paid tribute to this historic occasion.

“What an exciting journey it has been to create Saskatchewan’s dedicated maternal and children’s hospital,” said Maura Davies, President and CEO of Saskatoon Health Region, who will own and operate the new facility.

Funding for the new facility was announced in the the March 18, 2009 provincial budget. However, planning for the hospital had been underway for years prior with Saskatoon physicians, health care administrators, government, university, health care professionals and the Children’s Hospital Foundation starting discussion nearly two decades ago around the need and the best location for a dedicated children’s hospital.

From June to August 2014, a portion of the RUH parkade was demolished where the new hospital will be built. That area is now clear, occupied by construction equipment on the base level of the future hospital.  The initial phase of construction, which has now begun, includes the installation of approximately 300 piles to support the foundation of the new hospital. The piling phase will be completed in early 2015 and the construction of the main CHS building will then follow, which will see the hospital rise out of the ground until it’s completion in 2017.

When the hospital opens, it will change the face of maternal and children’s health care across Saskatchewan, Davies promised.

Hundreds of Saskatoon Health Region staff and physicians, as well as patients and families have dedicated countless hours to planning and designing this new hospital, which would not have been made possible without the hospital’s largest supporter – the Government of Saskatchewan.

The Saskatchewan government has provided $235.5 million in funding to support this project, including an extra $20 million that was required when an additional 24 inpatient beds were approved earlier this year to support the province’s growing population.

Premier Wall speaks from a podium.

Premier Brad Wall addresses the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“In 2009, we made a promise to build a hospital where children feel safe and comfortable while receiving exceptional care closer to home,” said Premier Brad Wall, who was on hand to help with the groundbreaking alongside Health Minister Dustin Duncan, and new Minister of Rural and Remote Health, Greg Ottenbreit.   “We made a promise to build a hospital where pregnant women are cared for by our best health care teams using state-of-the-art equipment – a hospital where mothers giving birth will know that their child has immediate access to all that modern medicine has to offer. We made a promise to create a home away from home for all the province’s families… Today, as we officially break ground on this very special project, our promise to children and families is being fulfilled.”

“This place of hope and healing will support high quality health care for our province’s children and families. This is truly an historic day as we celebrate a hospital made in Saskatchewan, for Saskatchewan,” Wall said to applause.

Premier Brad Wall addressing the large crowd.

Government ministers and major donors were among the crowd of people who attended the groundbreaking ceremony.

Both the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan and Royal University Hospital Foundation (RUHF) will be contributing funds towards this new facility for state of the art equipment and furnishings. RUHF will fund the new adult emergency room equipment and furnishings, which will be located in the new hospital and serve both the Children’s Hospital and Royal University Hospital.

Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan capital campaign will fund the pediatric emergency department, and the equipment and furnishings for the rest of the hospital.

“The Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan is proud to stand side-by-side with everyone that continues to contribute their time and funding for this project,” said Brynn Boback-Lane of the Foundation. “Today is a testament to what Saskatchewan people can accomplish with patience, perseverance and hope. Thank you for believing.”

“This is important work and an important hospital; you are doing the right thing in helping our future,” said Les Dube on behalf of himself and his wife, Irene, who are major donors to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan.

“We have said building a hospital for tomorrow is not a simple process. It’s one that takes courage and dedication to make the right decisions and be willing to adjust where we need to. We also know not one person – nor one organization – can create a hospital of the future. You need a team of experts and dedicated people thinking and acting as one, “said Jim Rhode, chair of the Saskatoon Regional Health Authority.

Over 600 children and 1,000 family members from across Saskatchewan participated in the design process for the hospital through varying activities ranging from being a patient family advisor at the table with the design teams, participating with the project team during community engagement consultations or providing input through design activities that were surveyed across the province.

A small child digs in the dirt at the groundbreaking.

This little guy got a jump on the groundbreaking during the speeches at the ceremony.

A small child in the crowd gathered at the groundbreaking claps her hands.

Even the littlest attendees at the groundbreaking ceremony gave the project a clap.

“Today is a day so many have been working toward,” Rhode noted.

Jim Rhode speaks at a podium.

Saskatoon Regional Health Authority chair Jim Rhode talked about the long history of this project and the involvement of Saskatoon Health Region in the planning.

“Planning and designing a hospital takes the passion, dedication and efforts of hundreds of staff, physicians, patients and families. From our earliest days working with government, this has been a journey well worth taking. A journey to outline just what services will be in the new hospital, the funding needed and hiring the right people to help us design a state-of-the-art facility. We met session after session with patients, family, staff and physicians to work through even the most basic design details. Today, we thank all those who have given so much and who continue to work tirelessly to prepare for Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan.”

Family advisors Tara Johnson and Kimberley Camboia, two parents who have been assisting with the design process for years, reflected on their involvement in that process.

Two little girls dig in the sand at the site.

These two little girls, Aleina and Avery, were more interested in getting to the digging than they were in some of the speeches at the groundbreaking, even though their mothers Tara Johnson and Kimberley Camboia were speaking at the time.

Camboia and Johnson stand at a podium.

Kimberley Camboia (let) and Tara Johnson shared their perspective as parents involved in the design process for the new hospital with those gathered for the groundbreaking.

“The design teams used not only our experiences, but the experiences of many to help turn this space we stand on today into the Children’s Hospital we envisioned. It’s surreal, really,” said Johnson.  “This hospital will be so successful. It has what the patients and families have been asking for – having the ability to stay with your child while they recover in an intensive care unit, having a room to share with your family and your family alone, no more hoping that the Victorian room or one of the other private maternal rooms is available, because all of the maternal rooms are private.”

The hospital is physically designed to keep families together so families can heal together, to encompass patient and family-focused care.

“This hospital is being built for Saskatchewan by Saskatchewan. It’s being built for families by families. It’s being built for healthcare teams by healthcare teams, but most importantly, it’s being built for patients by patients,” said Camboia.

Parents help children dig with buckets and shovels.

Children and parents dug into the sand at the site, officially breaking ground on the Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan.

This project, she added, speaks to the type of province we are. “Whether it be teamwork in the wheat fields, or teamwork in the emergency department, as a province, we know how to get things done as a team.”

The 176-bed facility will be located next to the Royal University Hospital on the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon.

Crowd at site of future Children's Hospital of Saskatchewan

All those involved in the ceremony, families, donors, and government officials, and then the media as well gathered for a photo at its conclusion.