Using Macs To Make a Difference

Screaming down Space Mountain, sharing fries with Steve Young, or perhaps, blasting bad guys on a glowing blueberry iMac. For the children of the Starlight Foundation in Montreal, Quebec, these are the things that dreams are made of.

Every day the Starlight Foundation International makes dreams come true by improving the lives of seriously ill children. Since 1983, Starlight has granted over 14,000 one-of-a-kind wishes for children suffering from depression or pain. Through a variety of distractive entertainment programs, Starlight sponsors in-hospital Fun Centers, hosts hospital parties, coordinates correspondences between pen pals, and grants wishes for sick kids.

But these children's wishes can't come true without the help of the community. Two such individuals are doing their part to help the Starlight Foundation. Owners of Canada's largest Mac showroom, B.Mac–Rick Rosenberg and his wife and business partner, Brenda Schneider–are the unsung heroes who are using Macs to make a difference.

Wishing on a Star

Just last week, Rosenberg and Schneider shipped seven computers to the Starlight Foundation Canada to fulfill the wishes of sick children across the country. "These kids need these machines," explained Rosenberg, "and no one else is doing it." Every year, the team at B.Mac send dozens of computers, many of which are Macs, to the Montreal Starlight Foundation. Depending on the specific needs of the children, Rosenberg and Schneider customize each computer to meet the child's request.

"Each child gets a brand new computer–with a printer, modem (if necessary), software, and two month's Internet access–we equip the machines to fulfill their special needs," says Rosenberg. Since some children's medical restrictions are more demanding than others, Rosenberg makes sure that each computer is tailored to the child's request; special keyboards, larger 17" monitors, specific software, or a portable computer is provided for children who are have frequent hospital visits. In most cases, the B.Mac folks only receive brief information about the children and their wishes and simply send the computers to directly to the Foundation. However, in some instances the children are immobile and need more assistance; for these special cases, Rosenberg sends technicians to the children's home or the hospital to help get the computer up and running.

Since last November, Rosenberg and Schneider have donated thousands of dollars worth of computer equipment to Montreal's Starlight. "Rick Rosenberg is very magnanimous to Starlight," explains Eliane Telio, Starlight Director of Children's Services in Montreal. "It brings such amazing joy to make someone else happy and it's really people like Rick that make it happen."

Each month, Telio takes requests from critically or chronically ill children between the ages of 4 to 18 years. "Right now we have over 90 active wishes," stresses Telio, "and computers are the number-one wish." As Telio explains, computers are an incredible tool for Starlight children since the technology "opens up a huge world to kids who are confined to wheelchairs or bedridden."

"Kids just love the Macs," exclaimed Telio. In fact, just last week a tearful mother called Starlight because she honestly thought her son's new iMac was a joke . "I had to explain to her that this was real –that we actually made her son's wish come true. She told me how she'd never seen such a beautiful computer."

Even with the help of Rosenberg and Schneider, Starlight can't meet all the children's demands. With approximately 10 new wishes each month, most children have to wait four to six months for a computer. But the granted wishes from Rosenberg and Schneider come with no strings attached. These two heroes never seek recognition for their contributions and do not sensationalize their efforts.

"I'm so blissfully happy about Starlight," gleamed Rosenberg. "But we insist on anonymity [to the recipients]. We do this because we believe in Starlight. We don't attach names to anything we do. These purchases are treated as a normal sale, but we pay for it."

Just B.

In the past six years Rosenberg's company, Brenrose, has transformed from a Canadian VAR to B.Mac, "Everything Apple Under One Roof" –the largest Mac superstore and cross-platform service center in Canada. In this 15,000-square-foot loft, computers are placed in household settings with comfy couches, a fireplace, and a kid's play area. "Thinking different? We've always been this way," explained Rosenberg. "We've just been waiting for Apple to catch up."

The owners of B.Mac stress they will continue to do their part to help the Starlight Foundation. But they can't do it alone...

To find out how you can help, contact the Starlight Foundation International at http://www.starlight.org or call the Montreal branch at 888/782-7947. For more information on Montreal's B.Mac store, check out http://www.apple.ca/press/9902/Bmac.html, or log on to http://www.bmac.ca, or call 514/738-9955.

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