Recently, I started a “Birthday Card Bonanza” for my friend’s daughter Sarah - she turned 12 on December 5, 2020. This girl has gone through more in her 12 years then some of us will ever face in a lifetime. On October 29, 2020, her mom called to let me know that Sarah relapsed for the 5th time in her short life with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. She had to be admitted yet again to Sick Kids, in Toronto, and start her next fight. She was first diagnosed at age 3, and I’ve stood by and tried to support her and family as I watched a huge chunk of her childhood be stolen.
So many special occasions she had to miss - Birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween - spent in the hospital or at Ronald McDonald House away from family and friends.
Sarah has been robbed of a regular childhood, unable to meet or know friends outside of the hospital - school is considered unsafe for her immunocompromised body to attend even when she is feeling well or in remission. Every fever is a hospital visit. Every remission, more appointments. Imagine spending most of your life in the confines of a hospital bed.
So, when Sarah had her 5th diagnosis on October 29, 2020, I was talking to her while playing an online game together, and she told me that she would be spending another birthday and probably another Christmas at Sick Kids. I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, and she replied “100 birthday cards would be soooo nice!” Her mom had already sent an email to a family and friend group asking for cards, so I took it a step further to make sure she got 100 and made a post on my Facebook.
I got a valuable lesson in things going viral. My post was shared and OPP Officer Ed Sanchuk saw it. He got ahold of me to ask if he could repost it and I said “yes!” Then my version of going viral took off. Not only were all of our communities involved, people from across the province, people throughout Canada, then people from all over the world sent birthday cards. This story touched the hearts of people all over the planet, and Sarah got THOUSANDS of cards and presents, encouragement and well wishes from quite literally everywhere!
I can not express my thanks enough to Officer Ed. The OPP arrival and the support vehicles were absolutely amazing. At first sight of lights and sirens, Sarah’s 14 year old sister turned to Sarah and asked “What did you do!?!?” We all laughed so hard, and it was so needed, with so much sadness enveloping the family, I had wondered if they forgot how to laugh and enjoy little things. We didn’t think Sarah would be home for her birthday. We met many wonderful officers and their families that day – while adhering to social distancing. I can not thank Officer Ed and the OPP enough for making Sarah feel like an absolute princess, they got her to smile and it lasted the whole day! Of course, as per the family’s usual, we finished Sarah’s day with a trip to Sick Kids as her chemotherapy filter failed and she was leaking cytotoxin.
What started as a couple strangers with the common goal of making a memorable birthday for Sarah, ended up with a socially distanced celebration bigger than either of us even imagined. I am honoured to now call Ed my friend. Officer Ed was instrumental in helping me make sure Sarah’s birthday was memorable for her and her family. The best thing is, Sarah called Ed her friend. For a child who has so few people outside of a hospital to call her friend, this was huge. In a time where police officers are continually fighting bad raps and negative media, this gesture of kindness showed what awesome officers make up the OPP. I am so proud that these officers, especially Ed, showed Sarah, me and all of our communities compassion, commitment, respect and kindness. I am forever indebted to Officer Ed and the OPP. Ed gave me a renewed sense of humanity in this world. He is truly an asset to your organization and to our communities.