BirminghamAugust 15, 2012
Kids play superhero for a day at exclusive movie event
By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer
BIRMINGHAM — It was noon on a sunny summer day Aug. 8, but the stars were out in Birmingham as six young cancer patients walked the red carpet with their families for a special screening of “The Amazing Spider-Man” at the Uptown Palladium 12 theater.
The private party was hosted by The Bottomless Toy Chest, a Birmingham-based nonprofit that delivers toys, crafts and hands-on activities to pediatric cancer patients in Michigan hospitals. President and CEO Mickey Guiseqite said the party was just another way the organization tries to make life a little brighter for children undergoing cancer treatments.
“We’re really excited about this one. We’re trying to give families and kids an opportunity to just come out and have fun and forget about cancer for a day. They’re definitely going to be treated like the heroes they are.”
Guiseqite knows just how valuable such an experience can be for a child who’s been stricken with a serious illness. It was only five years ago that her own son was diagnosed with mature b-cell leukemia, a highly aggressive form of cancer. As she watched her 12-year-old son undergo treatments at Children’s Hospital in Detroit, she did whatever she could to keep his spirits up.
“We were in the hospital for weeks at a time. I found that the more I could keep him busy and redirect his attention from negative to positive and give him things he could conquer and accomplish, it really helped him emotionally,” said Guiseqite, saying her son especially liked things he could build, like Lego sets.
“I thought if we ever got out of our circumstance and got to the other side, all I wanted to do was go back and work with other families.”
With that, The Bottomless Toy Chest was born. Each week, the group makes deliveries to five major cancer centers in Michigan, including Children’s Hospital. Since its inception, it’s delivered more than 5,000 toys to children in treatment.
The group worked all summer to raise the funds necessary to put on the party, which was planned by interns at The Bottomless Toy Chest. A number of fundraisers were held and donations garnered to put on the event for children who have cancer, but are well enough to enjoy a day out on the town.
All the effort seemed to be worth it as the kids with smiling faces piled out of the celeb-worthy limousine, donated by All-Star Limo. The children and their families were picked up from their homes and enjoyed a tour along Woodward Avenue in the huge party bus.
Once they arrived at the theater, they were escorted to a private party room. The special guests munched on pizza and popcorn for lunch, got their faces painted, and even made their own Spider-Man masks. Afterwards, the theater donated a private theater for the families to enjoy an exclusive screening of the newly released hit movie, “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
Three-year-old CJ Baldwin was diagnosed only a month ago with lymphoma, but being sick was the furthest thing from his mind as he got his face painted to be Spider-Man. His mother, Kathleen Johnson, smiled as her son waved excitedly to her while the artist spread black lines across his face to make a spider web.
“This is wonderful,” said Johnson. “He’s been waiting up all day for this.”
CJ was especially excited when he saw Spider-Man himself walk into the room for a special visit. Behind the mask was Guiseqite’s son, Jack Decerchio. Now fully recovered, the 17-year-old Roeper senior was glad to help bring a little joy to the kids he can so closely relate to.
“It was very tough for me when I was going through it. Kids just want to be like anyone else, and go outside and play and stuff. So I want to help with that as much as possible,” he said.
It’s been a while since 14-year-old Emma Webb of Harrison Township has been outside to play. Her mother, Dana Webb, said that the treatment for Emma’s brain tumor leaves her drained of energy much of the time. But on this day, Emma said she was feeling good, as she crafted her custom Spider-Man mask and decided on a design to get painted on her hand.
“Treatment is going well, but she’s sick a lot. She spends a lot of time in bed,” said Dana Webb. “It’s nice to see her up and out and smiling.”
For more information on The Bottomless Toy Chest, visit www.BottomlessToyChest.org.
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