When 14-year-old Ontario teen Hunter Guindon was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis in the summer of 2009, a social worker at the hospital went to his room and asked him what he would do if he could do anything at all. With a puzzled look, Hunter said he would love to cook with Chef Michael Smith. A short time later, Hunter’s family was thrilled to learn that The Children’s Wish Foundation was going to grant Hunter’s most heartfelt wish. Hunter loved food preparation, having started experimenting in the kitchen at the tender age of eight. One of his favourite TV shows was “Chef at Home” with Prince Edward Island’s celebrity chef, Michael Smith. His decision was an easy one.
The family was flown to PEI to spend a week at the house where Food Network’s ‘Chef at Home’ was filmed. As a big fan of the show, Hunter couldn’t wait to explore ‘THE pantry’ and to cook in ‘THE kitchen’. Hunter spent a fun-filled day with Chef Michael. Between picking herbs and vegetables from the garden, laughing, talking, cutting, and dicing, the two developed a special bond while creating an amazing meal of chicken and vegetables with a salad and homemade ice cream for dessert. Later that week, Chef Kimball Bernard from The Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown surprised Hunter with a set of chef’s whites with his name embroidered on the jacket. Hunter was also invited to attend some culinary classes and enjoyed another delicious meal that he helped to prepare for his family.
Hunter took his positive wish experience and his passion for cooking and enrolled at The Culinary Institute in 2014. “Ever since I experienced classes here, I knew I would return. Chef Michael is a role model to me and I told him and Chef Kimball that I would be back!” Hunter said. He graduated in May 2015, receiving a “Professional Excellence Award” with his mentors on hand for the special occasion. Soon after, Hunter was hired to work for Chef Michael at his new restaurant, “Fireworks.” Chef Michael has made it very clear from the start that he didn’t hire Hunter simply as a favour to him. He says Hunter works hard, is an active participant in the restaurant, an “amazing” cook and is proud to have him on his team. “Hunter is walking, talking proof of how a strong spirit can overcome so much in his life. His relentless pursuit of his goals is truly awe-inspiring.”
Six years after his wish was granted, Hunter and his family are so grateful to Children’s Wish and the positive impact his wish experience has had on all of their lives. “This wish opportunity came along at the perfect time,” Hunter’s mom Linda says. “Looking back, it was the most wonderful distraction from life’s hiccups. We are truly grateful to Children’s Wish. They have an amazing ability to allow kids to feel free of their bubble wrap and be kids with a dream, rather than a patient with an illness. Hunter’s positivity and ability to appreciate every opportunity that comes his way has made for an impressive journey. He values this experience so much that he now speaks at Children’s Wish events. We are so proud of his willingness to tell his story in hopes to inspire others. It’s remarkable how this single act of kindness has snowballed into a life full of hope and goals. To think, it all began with a wish to create memories, but evolved into something even more valuable… lifelong friendships.”