Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation introduces 2024 Champion

Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation introduces 2024 Champion

Claire a ‘pioneer’ in Brain Computer Interface technology

Eight-year-old Claire Sonnenberg loves to play games with her brothers, make art for her friends, and bake with her mom. What’s unique about her, is she can do all three using only her mind.

Today, the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation is announcing Claire as the 2024 Champion, part of the Children’s Miracle Network Champions Program that celebrates the life-saving, life-changing care taking place at children’s hospitals across the country. As Champion, Claire will be the official ambassador for the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation and represent the 100,000 kids cared for at the hospital each year.

Claire has cerebral palsy and though she cannot walk or talk, she is intellectually intact and highly aware. Her brain has been, in essence, trapped inside her body. Now, thanks to specialists at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and community-funded state-of-the-art technology called Brain Computer Interface (BCI), she is learning to use her mind to do things her body cannot. By wearing a special headset, Claire concentrates on certain words that signal the BCI technology to control a variety of devices. For the first time in her life, and using only her mind, she can switch on toys, play video games, shoot her brothers with a dart gun, and roll a mechanical dice during family game nights. She loves working the blender and mixer to make milkshakes and bake with her mom, Stephanie.

“BCI has opened the door to so many opportunities for Claire we never dreamed were possible for her. She is learning how to express herself, gain independence and interact with our family in fun new ways. The potential BCI holds for her and other children like her is so exciting, and we are so grateful to our team and this technology that has been life-changing for her.” – Stephanie Sonnenberg


Claire is also treading new ground, quite literally, with other innovative technology called Trexo, a robotic device that is also part of nation-leading research at the hospital. Her Trexo device has allowed her to experience walking the mall with friends and down the aisle as a flower girl!

“For everything she has accomplished and yet to accomplish as a pioneer of technology like BCI, Claire is a true Champion,” says Saifa Koonar, President and CEO of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation. “She brings us all so much joy and her inspirational story is an example of how community support can be truly life-changing for kids like her.”

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