This Is What Real Heroism Looks Like
A teen and her aunt want Sick Kids cancer patients to feel like heroes — so they’re making them capes
Published in Toronto Star March 31, 2017. Read online here
As Isabelle Bero prepared for her first round of cancer treatment at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, the 13-year-old turned to her great aunt and said: “I wonder what kind of super powers the chemo’s going to give me.”
Those words ignited a passion inside Debbie Mather, who went home to Port Hope, Ont., with an idea to do something special for Isabelle and other children at Sick Kids.
“I wanted to do something that would make these children . . . feel empowered, feel like superheroes,” Mather says.
Soon after her visit with Isabelle, Mather saw a TV ad — Sick Kids VS Undeniable — featuring young patients dressed like warriors to battle their illness. And the “idea came instantly” to make superhero capes for children in hospital.
“When I was watching the video, it reminded me of (what Isabelle said), and I thought, ‘I make superhero capes for my grandkids. Maybe I can make superhero capes for the kids fighting cancer.’ ”
One year later, Isabelle — who is now cancer-free — and Mather returned to Toronto to deliver 40 handmade superhero capes to children fighting cancer at Sick Kids. The plan is for the capes to go to every child fighting cancer at Sick Kids, with more capes in production for other wings in the hospital.
“I was a patient at Sick Kids (with a blood disease) when I was 3, and I always wanted to give back, (but) I didn’t know how to go about it,” Mather says, adding that her grandson also recently underwent heart surgery at the hospital.
“When I told (Isabelle) that I wanted to do this she was excited, overwhelmed and happy,” she says.
Mather sewed the capes, Isabelle added her handprint as a logo, her daughters Leslie and Kimberly created a poem for the tags, and Debbie’s other daughters Jennifer and Tiffanie helped with sewing, cutting and packaging.
“When I drove out to her house to trace her hand print and told her that I wanted . . . ‘hero’ written across it (as) the super hero emblem, she was beaming.
“I told her the hand print on each cape means no child will have to fight this horrible battle alone, that a part of her is with them all the way.”
She says an illness like cancer or heart disease is something no child or family should have to go through. Isabelle’s own diagnoses came as a surprise because, as Mather describes her, she was “a healthy child a week before.”
“(I felt) shock that it was my family, sadness and compassion for Isabelle and her immediate family, anger that the cancer got a hold of her. (I felt) inspiration when I saw how hard she fought and how tough she was, and hope because I had our whole church praying for her.”
“It is a difficult project,” Mather admits, because it means getting to know children who are fighting terrible diseases. One father reached out to Mather, asking if she could expedite a cape for his 7-year-old daughter, who was in palliative care. She mailed one express. The little girl died shortly after receiving her gift.
Mather admits that was tough to hear, but says as long as children need to feel empowered, she will keep making capes.
So far, she has invested $600 into the project. Some customers at her work have donated money toward fabric, and a local printing company in nearby Cobourg, Ont., has picked up the tab for the labels. Mather has also created a GoFundMe account.
“This superhero cape campaign is not about me,” Mather adds. “It is about Isabelle, and any other child that is battling this horrible disease.”
“All as I can say is Isabelle truly is my super hero.”
Mather isn’t the first Ontario woman to start a campaign to deliver capes to children fighting disease.
Through her campaign, more than 6,000 superhero capes have been delivered to sick children around the world.
“We have seen them on kids IV poles, wrapped around (kids’) shoulders while they receive chemo, or one their favourite stuffed animals. And unfortunately we have also seen them laid over coffins, given to siblings, or framed in shadow boxes as reminder that the child fighting was indeed a Superhero,” McCallan says.
“When Happy Soul Project launches their Academy this fall, the idea is to get schools more involved in their #HeroProject which includes Kick-It-Capes.”
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