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As you celebrate the holiday season this year, we ask that you take a moment to help your fellow Ontarians breathe a little easier by making a Christmas Seals donation.
One stormy December night in 1903, a postman named Einar Holboell was working late in a post office on the outskirts of Copenhagen. He was sorting great piles of Christmas mail. As he moved around among the mailbags, he paused to look out the window. At that moment two little waifs, a ragged little girl and boy appeared.
Suddenly he had an idea. Just suppose that every letter or parcel carried an extra stamp and the money from the tens of thousands of such stamps went to help unfortunate children. What a blessing it would be!
Christmas of 1904 the seals went on sale. The campaign was even more successful than the postmen had hoped. They decided that the children in most distress were the hundreds, even perhaps thousands, who were crippled by tuberculosis (TB).
With funds from the first two Christmas Seal campaigns, they started building two hospitals for treatment of children with tuberculosis. This was a turning point in the world history of this disease because it was the beginning of the movement to get ordinary citizens to take part in fighting an infectious disease, one, which at that time was the leading cause of death, outstripping even wars
In 1907 the idea crossed the Atlantic. A little sanatorium down on the Brandywine River in Delaware was about to close for lack of $300, sending the patients, all of whom were infectious, out among others where they would spread their disease. The idea horrified the doctors and one of them, Joseph P. Wales, appealed to his cousin Emily Bissell to try and think of some way to raise $300.
Miss Bissell recalled reading about the Christmas Seal campaign and approached her local newspaper, launching the “Stamp out tuberculosis!” campaign
By the next Christmas, news of the Danes’ campaign had reached Canada. Interested people in Toronto and Hamilton embarked on Christmas Seal campaigns for the sake of struggling hospitals being built for TB patients.
That first year, the Toronto campaign raised $6,114.25 and Hamilton citizens gave $1,244.40.
Year by year other cities across Canada tried the Christmas Seal campaign as a means not only of raising money but of creating the awareness that tuberculosis could be controlled.
At first the money was used for the new and badly needed sanatoriums. Once established, Christmas Seal funds were then used for TB prevention. The Seals have paid for millions of Canadians to have chest X-rays or tuberculin tests and in this way thousands of cases have been found before the disease spread to others.
Though tuberculosis is not the threat to life and health it was even 50 years ago, there are still about 1,600 new cases each year in Canada. In the meantime other diseases of the lungs, though not infectious, have increased enormously. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and asthma make breathing difficult for millions of Canadians.
Christmas Seals are still as relevant today as they were in 1903. Funds are now used to fund research for cures and new treatments for people with life threatening lung diseases.
The Lung Association continues to evolve — to build a better breathing future for everyone. The updated look and feel of the 2016 Christmas Seal more fully reflects our commitment to helping all Canadians breathe easier, through advocacy, education, research and continuously improved treatment.