Child cancer patients ‘connected under the same stars’ with turtle-shaped night-lights delivered by 12yo


Posted

October 06, 2019 08:30:00

The world behind the closed doors of the paediatric oncology ward seems like a scary place to most of its young visitors.

But a 12-year-old boy and a giant turtle named Max are making the experience a little less daunting for children and parents.

Every year in September, Bryce U’ren spends his school holidays visiting every children’s hospital in Australia and New Zealand delivering turtle-shaped night-lights to the oncology wards.

When children enter cancer treatment, they are often not allowed to bring their favourite soft toys. The turtle-shaped night-lights are designed to be easily sanitised so they can be taken into even the strictest of hospital environments.

“Originally I saw my mum going through cancer and I thought about how scary it must be to be a child going through it,” Bryce said.

“I wanted to take some sort of action so I asked my mum what I could do and she had met the grandma of a kid named Max over in America who had brain cancer.

“He wanted to take his stuffie [stuffed toy] night-light into hospital but he couldn’t because of the germs,” Bryce said.

“His parents worked with this company to create SuperMax so he could take it with him because it could be fully wiped down and sterilised and go with him anywhere he goes.”

Bryce started fundraising in 2016, when he was just nine years old, with the goal of delivering six turtle night-lights.

By the end of the year he had raised enough money to deliver 244 of them.

“For us, we’ve gotten back so much more than we could ever give,” said Bryce’s mum, Amy Kenworthy.

‘All connected under the same stars’

When it’s dark, the lamps light up the room with star shapes and have an automatic switch-off timer.

Bryce said his message was that no matter where kids with cancer were, as long as they had their turtle lamp, they were all connected under the same stars and would never be alone.

And now the parents also get to feel connected, with delivery socks for the dads and scarves for the mums.

“The one thing that struck us was that sitting with every brave superhero was at least one equally brave parent or carer,” Ms Kenworthy said.

The scarves were designed by another family who had been on their own journey with cancer.

“Their daughter Brooke lost her battle against cancer six months after we met them, just after her 2nd birthday in 2018,” Ms Kenworthy said.

“Their eldest son, William, who is 11, now sleeps under the stars of his sister’s Super Max the Turtle every night as a way to stay close to her.

“William said he wanted to capture the happiness mothers share with their children, especially mothers who are in the unimaginable position of having a child in treatment.

“He said, ‘I knew this was going to go to the mums so I wanted to represent the happiness that oncology mums give to their children’.”

Hiding tears behind the suit

In the Queensland Children’s Hospital, children’s faces light up when they saw the giant turtle deliver their gifts and, for a brief moment, the parents let their guard down.

Little do the children know that inside the giant turtle suit is Bryce’s sister Mariel.

“I’m glad I get to sweat in this suit,” she said.

“I get to just cry and I don’t have to hide my emotions.”

One little boy who had just returned from surgery was enamoured of Max, jumping up and down for several minutes as he waved through the door’s window.

“It has been a long time since my son smiled this much,” one of the mothers said.

Aside from bringing a bit of joy, hospital staff say the project has helped improve the wellbeing of patients during their stay.

This year Bryce delivered almost 1,200 night-lights — one for each child diagnosed with cancer this year.

By donating to cancer cure research, Bryce hopes he won’t have to visit the wards during his holidays anymore.

“Our goal is to hand out zero turtles, which means no kids with cancer,” Bryce said.

Topics:

cancer,

children,

family-and-children,

lung-cancer,

ovarian-cancer,

prostate-cancer,

skin-cancer,

diseases-and-disorders,

health,

volunteers,

brisbane-4000,

qld,

australia



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