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Twelve lucky young people were in Montreal last week to celebrate life and meet with Céline Dion.

The children – all of whom have overcome huge physical challenges – were chosen by Readers Digest to take part in the Faces of Love project and raise funds for various causes endorsed by the Canadian singer, including the CHU Sainte-Justine, the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, and UNICEF. The mission of the visit – which was made possible by the donation of cash and goods and services from Quebec businesses – was to promote a book, a calendar and a set of greeting cards, entitled 12 Héros Parmi Nous, to be launched in August of this year.

“Children from all over the world are facing horrendous hardships. By telling the stories of the 12 little heroes who have overcome fear and suffering, Faces of Love offers a positive outlook on life,” said Martyne Huot, who led the project. “The determination of these children provides a lesson in courage for each and every one of us, and should prompt us to refocus on the basic values of our society.”

The group of children included a young boy who was discovered alive 19 days after the 2004 tsunami in Sumatra, after keeping himself alive for three weeks by eating berries and drinking water from puddles. There was also a young Peruvian girl who was born with her legs joined together from her hips to her ankles and her feet spread out in a V like the fin of a fish, and a boy who had both of his arms and legs amputated when he was severely burned after his father immolated himself.

“We already know about Céline Dion’s long-standing commitment to the
Cystic Fibrosis Association, as well as her affiliation with the CHU Sainte-Justine – she and her husband, René Angélil, were the spokespersons for the CHU Sainte-Justine’s most recent fund-raising campaign," said Georges-Hébert Germain, who wrote the preface for the book. “What is not so well known is the fact that Céline is actually involved: she meets with sick and injured children, comforts them, shares their pain and fear, and brings them that which, more than anything else, can help change their lives. Their hope, determination and strength is largely derived from contact like this.”

Proceeds from the sales of the book and other products will go into a Young Heroes Fund before being distributed to the benefiting charities.

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