In August of 2011 on the Gold Coast of Australia, Bryce’s mom was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer for which she is still in treatment today. During the same month, a family friend shared that her grandson, Max, who was four years old (the same age as Bryce at that time) was diagnosed with brain cancer. For both families, their lives would never be the same.
Max’s family started the MaxLove Project (www.maxloveproject.org) with the aim of supporting children and their families to thrive in the face of cancer diagnoses and treatment. One of the many truly amazing things they have done at the MaxLove Project is partner with the team at the Cloud b organization to design Super Max the Turtle – a turtle night light, with a smile modeled after Max’s, made entirely of plastic so it can be taken into even the most sterile of hospital environments like ICU and isolation wards. Each turtle night light comes with a small book that tells the story of how Super Max the Turtle came to have his magical rainbow cape and special powers to comfort others. With their Super Max the Turtle in hand, children can be comforted everywhere they go.
Four years later, in 2015, Bryce’s family organised a trip to Greece. A woman in Greece named Maria helped Bryce’s mom organise their trip. During their email communications, Maria shared that her daughter, a 2.5 year old girl named Katerina, was in the hospital being treated for cancer. Bryce’s family decided to send Katerina a Super Max the Turtle hoping that she would like it. Katerina loved her Super Max the Turtle, not only because it comforted her as she went to sleep every night but also, as she so eloquently told her mother with insight far older than her age, “it’s special because it was given to me by people I have never met.” Between hearing Katerina’s words, watching his mom go through her surgeries and treatment, and imagining how scary it would be to be a child in the hospital with cancer, Bryce was inspired to take action.
In August of 2016, a now nine year old Bryce set himself the goal of raising enough money to purchase six Super Max the Turtle night lights for children with cancer on the Gold Coast of Australia where he lives. Following a series of inspirational presentations to students and staff at his school and numerous successful bake sales as a result, Bryce initially raised enough money to purchase 56 night lights. When he later found out that there would be approximately 100 children in the hospital with cancer over the holidays, he looked at his mom and said, “we’d better start baking more cupcakes!” Through the hard work of Bryce and two friends who were inspired to help him (thank you Jayden and Adam), their families, the incredibly supportive staff and students at their school (St Andrews), the generous donations of friends and family and the support of the Cloud b and MaxLove Project teams, by the end of November, Bryce had raised enough to purchase 244 Super Max the Turtle night lights. Wow!
In December of 2016, Bryce traveled across Australia to all eight of the children’s oncology treatment centres to hand out the turtle night lights to children who were in treatment for cancer. The visits were made possible through Bryce’s family’s newfound partnership with the Australian and New Zealand Children’s Haematology and Oncology Group (ANZCHOG). Like most successful projects, Bryce was not working alone. His grandma Sky flew over from the US to help wrap the 244 night light boxes. His sister, Mariel, dressed up as a walking, hugging and “hi-fiving” Super Max the Turtle in each of the hospitals. His mom, Amy, talked with the hospital staff, parents and caregivers to explain the project and give hugs wherever she could. His family friend, Oden, helped to capture the smiles through her camera to share with others. It was an amazing journey of love, hope and light. The children’s enthusiastic smiles and visible happiness when they opened their Super Max the Turtle presents said it all.
Returning from his 2016 trip, Bryce was told that there would be approximately 800 children diagnosed with cancer in Australia during 2017. It was at that moment that he set himself the goal of raising enough money to purchase a Super Max the Turtle night light for every single child who is diagnosed with cancer in Australia and he did it! In December of 2017, Bryce, his mom and his sister traveled around Australia, once again visiting all eight of the children’s hospitals and handing out 804 Super Max the Turtle night lights – enough to ensure that every child who was diagnosed in 2017 has one.
Now, in 2018, inspired by countless superhero smiles, Bryce and his family extended their goals once again. In support of their partners at ANZCHOG who represent the two children’s oncology hospitals in New Zealand, Bryce’s new goal is to raise enough to get a Super Max the Turtle for every child in Australia and New Zealand. Additionally, through their amazing partners at Annabel Trends, Bryce and his family have set a goal to raise enough money to get every supermum a star-covered scarf and every superdad a star-covered pair of socks in 2018. This way, every superhero and his or her parents, no matter where they are, will be connected through the stars. No one will ever be alone.
Through Bryce’s continued hard work, the overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic commitment of the students, staff and families at his school (St Andrews on the Gold Coast), the continued support of our program partners at Cloud b, ANZCHOG, and the MaxLove Project, the support of people in other Gold Coast-based organisations, and the generous contributions of friends and family, we know we will reach this new goal goal.
Every child who is diagnosed with cancer in Australia and New Zealand this year will receive two things: (1) a Super Max the Turtle night light friend to take with them everywhere they go and (2) the endless love, hope, happiness and comfort that comes with it from all of us.
Here is a five and a half minute video of Bryce narrating a slide show of his story from early 2017. Below that you’ll see some pictures of him hard at work. Go Bryce!