Smiles All Around

Starlight Foundation injects joy in lives of sick kids

By Jason Santerre

Coping with a debilitating disease or with a day-to-day existence in spite of a terminal illness is testament to a person’s inner strength. But when a child manages a smile or even a laugh in the face of sickness, it’s a display of immeasurable courage. Just ask Linda Stroude.

Despite a long list of surgeries, Linda’s nine-year-old son, Tre, continues to battle through a life of cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and getting around in a wheelchair. “Something as simple as taking Tre to the movies is a challenge,” says Linda, admitting that for many years, smiles were hard to come by in the Stroude household. It took a neighbour’s advice for the family’s fortunes to change.

One day, Linda noticed that her newest neighbours also had a son with cerebral palsy. It wasn’t long before she spoke to the boy’s mother and realized they had much in common. And then her neighbour mentioned the Starlight Foundation. “Signing on to Starlight was the best thing I ever did for not only Tre but for our family,” she says, adding that for once she didn’t feel so alone, realizing other families face the same challenges.

“Starlight prides itself on being there for the entire journey of a child’s illness, from emergency room to treatment to recovery,” says executive director, Brian Bringolf. “Out of hospital, children benefit from our Escapes program or our Wishes program,” he says . “And while they’re in the hospital, Starlight provides much-needed distraction and relief from the stress and boredom.”

For Tre, a boy who absolutely loves water and all of its various properties, a Starlight Escape gave him the chance to be a firefighter for a day. “He held a fire hose and felt the power behind it as the water gushed,” recalls Linda. “And then the firemen took Tre for a ride around the block on the fire engine. Just to feel like a normal kid for a day was amazing.”

“We grant about 100 wishes a year,” says Bringolf. “The Great Escapes program is more localized. For instance, we do a snowmobile trip to the Laurentians. It’s an opportunity for kids to ride customized skidoos and get out of their wheelchair and not feel embarrassed by being bald from chemotherapy or being jaundiced. It’s great for parents too, as a kind of coping mechanism.”

In 1983, actress Emma Samms of Dynasty fame and her cousin, film producer Peter Samuelson, co-founded the Starlight Children's Foundation. Samms had lost her little brother to aplastic anemia. Thirty years later, Starlight helps over 20,000 children a month in Canada alone.

For a list of programs provided by Starlight, click on And Mr. Bringolf urges anyone looking to help out to go online and donate. Only 10 percent of proceeds go to administrative costs. The other 90 percent goes straight to helping kids. “Even if you can’t donate right now, sign up for one of our monthly newsletters,” he says. “Just a glimpse of all the people who are making a difference and paying it forward will inspire you and make your day.”

Spring 2015, Vol 7 N°2

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