Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a bit longer than usual, but it’s well worth the read. We promise. Grab a cup of tea (or other beverage of your choice), get comfy, and get ready to be inspired! (You might want to have some tissues handy, too, because the video will likely bring you to heart-warming, love-gushing tears.)
Five years ago, a little boy named Max was diagnosed with brain cancer. When he first came home from more than three weeks in the hospital after brain surgery in August 2011, he was afraid of the dark, even with four nightlights glowing in his room.
His mom Audra brought home Cloud b’s Twilight Turtle hoping that its soothing stars projection would do the trick. Max immediately identified the green stars as “healing” stars – a part of the fighting/healing story his parents had created focusing on green food, green drinks, and green energy, all to help a SuperKid like Max fight the bad guys (cancer). Max was thrilled by the “healing stars” and held the Turtle up to the back of his head – green stars glowing – and said “Look mommy, I’m healing!”
That’s when Audra and Max’s dad Justin decided to find a way to share these amazing toys with other SuperKids fighting cancer. Audra approached Cloud b to see if they could get Twilight Turtle products at a discounted price and Cloud b’s CEO Linda Suh was so inspired by Max’s story she said she’d donate the products. Since then, the MaxLove Project (the non-profit Audra and Justin created shortly thereafter) and Cloud b have teamed up to donate and distribute more than $400,000 worth of Twilight Turtles to SuperKids fighting cancer and related rare diseases around the world. And Max’s love and concern for other kids like him fuels the engines powering this collaboration.
Most recently, they teamed up and with feedback from health professionals, Cloud b developed SuperMax the Turtle to honor Max and to help all children feel strong and calm, wherever they are and whenever they need it. SuperMax the Turtle (featuring a smile modeled on Max’s own) features the same glowing starlight projections as the original Twilight Turtle that first provided comfort to Max. This new compact version is just the right size for kids to take it anywhere they need. It’s all plastic and easy to clean and sterilize, so it’s adaptable for use at home, on-the-go, in hospitals, child care centers, everywhere! Also, a portion of the sales goes to support the MaxLove Project.
MEANWHILE, IN AUSTRALIA…
While Max’s story is really inspiring in and of itself, he’s definitely not the only SuperKid out there. We have a friend in Australia, 9-year-old Bryce, who’s making some magic himself.
Bryce’s mom Amy was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer the same month Max was diagnosed with brain cancer back in 2011. The two families knew each other through a mutual acquaintance, so Bryce and his Mom have been following the magical, inspirational, and yet extremely difficult journey of Max, Audra, and their family over the past five years. Bryce connected emotionally with Max not only because of their ages (they were born just a few months apart in 2007), but also because of what he watches as his Mom go through fighting cancer.
Earlier this year, Bryce heard about a 3-year-old girl named Katerina who lives in Greece and is fighting a battle against Neuroblastoma. Just like Max, Bryce couldn’t just sit around and do nothing. He and his family sent Katerina a SuperMax the Turtle, even though they had never met her or her family in person. Katerina’s mother later told Bryce that SuperMax the Turtle had a very special place in Katerina’s heart because, even at 3 years old, she was genuinely touched by the fact that SuperMax came to her from a family she had never met. And that’s all it took – Bryce was inspired to take action!
Last month, this incredible 9-year-old in 4th grade decided he would raise funds to buy SuperMax the Turtles for kids like Katerina. When Amy asked him why, he responded with empathy well beyond his years. “I want to do the MaxLove SuperMax Turtle project to help people and to spread love,” Bryce declared. “I can’t imagine how scared I would be if I was a child in the hospital. I would be very happy to know that someone put in a lot of effort to get a SuperMax turtle for me.”
When Bryce imagined what it would be like to be scared at night in the hospital, unable to have his favorite stuffed animals by his side, he knew that he wanted to do his best to make sure that as many children as possible who are fighting against cancer have a SuperMax the Turtle at their side every night and day to help keep them happy and full of hope – and, of course, to help them sleep well, which is vital for growth and healing.
A FUNDRAISER THAT EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS
Bryce decided to start his fundraiser at his elementary school, St. Andrews, on the Gold Coast in Queensland with a goal of raising $150 to purchase 6 SuperMax the Turtles to give to children in the area who are undergoing cancer treatment. To launch his initiative, on August 2nd Bryce made a bold and brave presentation to his entire school.
He started his presentation by asking the students and staff:
“Who in here has ever been afraid of the dark?”
“Who in here has ever used a nightlight to help them feel safe?”
“Imagine being a kid… being afraid of the dark… and being in the hospital with cancer…”
From that moment forward, he had the undivided attention of each and every one of the 600+ people in the room.
Following his presentation, two of his friends were inspired to help him run his fundraiser. Bryce prepared by making a giant poster of SuperMax the Turtle and tons of cupcakes for the event.
On August 9, the three boys (with a little help from their moms) sold more stuffed animals, tattoos, and cupcakes than they could count, raising $651.00 ($501.00 more than they were hoping!). Here they are at their stall.
And here’s Bryce writing thank you notes to the parents and staff who donated their time and baked goods for the fundraiser. (Writing thank you notes is really important in Bryce’s family).
Next, it was time to contact the Max Love Project and Cloud b to see about ordering the SuperMax the Turtles. Once again, Cloud b’s CEO was so inspired by everything Bryce and his friends had done that she and her team decided to give the turtles to Bryce at cost. After the currency conversion from Australian dollars to US dollars, Bryce and his friends had raised enough money to purchase 45 turtles – 39 more than they were hoping to be able to give to children in need!
ONE GOOD DEED INSPIRES ANOTHER
Bryce was so inspired by Cloud b’s generous gesture that he decided to raise more money – enough money to be able to get 50 SuperMax the Turtles for children in need. With the support of the administration at his school, Bryce organized a second fundraiser, this time targeted at the teachers only. He needed to raise another $70.00 to get to 50 turtles so he and his mom made more cupcakes and Bryce decorated them in inspirational MaxLove ways. All of the cupcakes with chocolate icing had the letters “SM” for “SuperMax” in chocolate on top and all of the vanilla iced cupcakes had a chocolate love heart designed to look like the MaxLove brand hearts. Bryce made all of the decorations with a piping bag by hand himself!
Linda, Cloud b’s CEO, was once again incredibly inspired by Bryce’s story and hard work that she asked Bryce and his Mom, to be the Cloud b ambassadors for Australia. They gladly accepted! Here they are working together at Bryce’s second fundraiser.
With the incredible generosity of the teachers and staff at St. Andrews, Bryce was now at a total amount raised of $801.50 – enough to purchase 56 SuperMax the Turtles. Wow! Go Bryce!
THE UNQUANTIFIABLE IMPACT OF LOVE
Bryce asked if he and his friends could do an update presentation to all of the students, staff, parents, and friends of the St. Andrews Lutheran community. On August 30, only 28 days after his original presentation and his goal of $150 to purchase 6 Super Max turtles, Bryce and his friends went up on stage to tell everyone how much the community had generously given. There were over 650 people in the auditorium that day.
Below is a photo of Bryce and his friends on stage as they began their presentation. (Many of us would have been intimidated with the audience size but not Bryce – he knew he needed to share their outcomes, keep the inspiration going, and say a giant thank you to everyone).
When Bryce and his friends shared the results of the fundraiser… that they had raised a total of $801.50 – enough for 56 SuperMax the Turtles – every person in the auditorium clapped with passion and enthusiasm. This was 50 more turtles than they had originally hoped for. Wow!
Here’s a short video of most of this presentation. (Please note, the video camera stopped just before the boys announced the total amount they raised, so you’ll see a short skip in the video. Thankfully, that’s where there was a giant round of applause which gave Bryce’s stepdad, George, time to frantically get his phone out to continue taping.)
By the end of the presentation, there were many parents in the audience with tears in their eyes (the heart-warming, love-gushing tears we spoke of earlier) and others in literal awe of how much one little guy could accomplish when he put his mind to it. As Linda Suh, the CEO of Cloud b, wrote in an email to Bryce’s mom:
“I am beyond lost for words to describe my emotions about this story. My heart swelled and I barely contained my tears watching the video! Bryce is an angel and a fierce friend helping children fight their battle of childhood cancer. Something no child should experience! Thank you for sharing this amazing story, we are so touched and grateful to be a part of this.”
And Katerina’s mom Maria had the following to say when she heard about Bryce’s fundraiser (remember Katerina is the 3-year-old girl from Greece who is fighting her battle against Neuroblastoma):
“I am so happy to know that she has inspired Bryce so much that he did this amazing thing for other children! I am sure that they will all feel the same as Katerina and it will bring a big smile to their faces and will give them strength to keep fighting!”
And just two days ago, after she watched the video of Bryce’s presentation, here is what she wrote to Bryce’s mom:
“I am so touched and that I could not stop crying when I saw the video. I think that at the time I was so emotionally full that I could not think or do anything for quite some time. Thank you!! I plan to have the people at our hospital look at the video. In the meantime, this morning Katerina was telling my grandmother that she will go one day to her house for a sleepover and she will pack her two favorite books, SuperMax and her pj’s. This is the relationship that she has with SuperMax!”
That’s where Bryce is today. A mere one month into his project, Bryce now has 60 turtles on their way to children who need them. (Yes, that’s more than the 56 he fundraised for. The Cloud b team decided to “round up” and send him 60 turtles because we continue to be inspired by his efforts.) What will he do next? Time will only tell, but we’re sure it will be amazing.
Are you feeling the love? Here are 2 super easy ways to help spread it:
- September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and for the third year in a row, The Honest Company is supporting The MaxLove Project with a digital fundraiser. Visit HonestLovesMax.com to make an “Inspired By” meme like the one at the beginning of this post. Share it with the hashtag #HonestLovesMax and Honest will donate $1 to MaxLove. Even easier, simply use the hashtag on any and every post you make on social media for the month. Each time = $1 up to $50,000!!
- No matter what day or month of the year it is, by purchasing SuperMax the Turtle, you’re helping support the important work of MaxLove. SuperMax is great for kids of all ages (we’ve even heard from college students who love the starry projection!).
SuperMax is our little turtle on a big mission, but we certainly have another little superhero here who is on a big mission – that’s you, Bryce! Through your work you have inspired hundreds of people throughout the St. Andrews community and now that your story is online, there’s no limit to how many people you could impact. We proudly welcome you to the team of all of the MaxLove SuperKids helping to spread love, happiness, and hope through inspiration, compassion, and kindness!