An 11-year-old boy from Hammonds Plains, N.S., has been named this year’s IWK Children’s Miracle Network Champion Child.

“It means a lot because there’s a whole bunch of representatives all over the IWK, and for them choosing me this year to be the champion, it really means a lot,” said Van Bernard during Monday’s announcement and special celebration at Walmart in Dartmouth Crossing.

When he was 10 months old, Bernard was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy type 2 -- a genetic neuromuscular condition that affects every muscle in his body. He underwent surgery at the IWK Health Centre, becoming one of the first patients in Canada to use a new innovative technology called magnetic controlled growth rods, or MAGEC rods.

“He’s had a long story with the IWK and he represents, you know, the Maritimes so well and what the IWK is all about, the care and persevering, and really what it’s like to just be a hero,” said Keely Wallace, manager of community and corporate giving for the IWK Foundation.

As part of his role, Bernard will represent children and youth who receive care and treatment at the IWK Health Centre, while sharing his story at fundraising events in the Maritimes and the United States.

“He will be representing the IWK and children’s health in Canada and how everyone is a part of that effort,” explained Wallace.

Bernard’s first big event is in Florida next week. He and his family will travel on March 16 to Orlando, where they will participate in events at Children’s Hospitals Week.

“The cool thing is, when he’s in Orlando he gets to meet other kids who have disabilities, who have chronic diseases, who have illnesses, so he gets to be around kids who face some of the same troubles as he does and he just gets to be a kid in Disney for a week,” said Wallace.

The Children's Miracle Network Champion Child is a special program that brings together children representing 12 children’s hospital foundations across Canada to celebrate pediatric health and wellness.