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Meet Chanel, the health care panda lifting spirits

Diann and Chanel get screened at the beginning of every shift.

Every day, Diann Santiago comes to Kensington Gardens ready for a busy day at reception. While the long-term care home isn’t open to non-essential visitors right now, her days are still hectic and long. Between answering the phones, checking faxes, receiving mail, triaging lab results and medical requests and more, Diann needs all the support she can get.

Thankfully, Diann has a little friend to help make the days a little brighter. Meet Chanel. Chanel is certainly an unusual member of the Kensington team; she was born out of a vending machine in Vancouver -- a little stuffed, black and white panda, named after the distinguished fashion brand’s classic black and white theme. 

Being far away from her family in the Philippines, Chanel brings Diann fond memories of home.

“I live by myself. I don’t have any relatives in Toronto. Chanel is my travelling panda, everywhere I go, every new city that I go to, I take a picture of her. Right now, she is helping out at Kensington,” said Diann.

Chanel is lifting spirits.

At Kensington, Chanel is a conversation-starter, giving Diann’s teammates a moment of levity during the tough battle on the frontline with COVID-19.

“I like to check in with everyone I see to make sure that they are doing well. I know that a lot of people can get really depressed,” said Diann. “Chanel makes people smile. I hope I brighten someone’s day.”

A learning environment

Prior to the pandemic, Diann worked as an Administrative Assistant at Kensington Vision and Research Centre. Due to COVID-19, clinic hours were reduced significantly and, unfortunately, Diann was temporarily laid-off. When Kensington Gardens made a call for help, she knew immediately she wanted to support the frontline.

“Helping as a receptionist at Kensington Gardens is a great way to venture out into other areas, it’s a good learning opportunity. I can get to know new people and make friends. There is also a lot of room for growth,” she added.

Diann and Chanel are happy to be able to help at the long-term care home during this time.

Seeing the frontline staff come in for their nursing shifts at the Gardens has really motivated Diann. 

“I was a nurse back home in the Philippines. Seeing other people working hard on the floors, and even seeing the nurses from Women’s College Hospital stepping up to help out, it really made me want to go back to nursing. If I become a nurse in Ontario one day, my long-term goal is to be able to work at Kensington. I keep on praying every night for everyone that’s working, especially on the floors. I tell them every day to keep up the good work, we can’t thank you enough.”

Of course, Chanel will be at her side every step in her journey.


Kensington Health is deeply grateful for the many colleagues, partners, family members, volunteers and community groups that have stepped up in our time of need. This series of stories will highlight what life has been like at the Kensington Health through the COVID-19 crisis – from devastating moments to triumphant milestones and everything in between, we hope to capture them all in the weeks ahead. 


Posted in Featured, Long-term Care on May 11, 2020

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