Last spring, University of Victoria student and varsity swimmer Jamie Lee Hellard was preparing to go to Olympic trials. Then, the pandemic hit, and with a sudden abundance of time Hellard made a decision that led to her nickname today – the chalk fairy.
Since May, Hellard has been partnering with Island Kids Cancer Association to create custom chalk creations for pediatric oncology patients on their birthdays and on the birthdays of their siblings.
She first found inspiration for her idea last Easter when she was trying to hatch up a way to make the holiday special for her one-year-old niece without getting too close physically. The resulting chalk drawing made Hellard’s niece so happy the UVic student thought there must be a way for her to spread that joy further.
“I really decided I was going to have to make a choice on whether to sit around and wait for COVID to pass or to take the opportunity to make someone’s life better,” Hellard said.
Choosing the latter, Hellard reached out to Island Kids and together they laid out a plan.
Family navigator, Tania Downey, would reach out to the parents of pediatric oncology patients, kids fighting cancer, and determine when the children’s birthdays were and what colours, animals and cartoons were their favourites.
Then, on the morning of the child’s birthday, Hellard would sneakily create her chalk drawing in front of their house. The kids would wake up to a special birthday surprise.
“It’s all about just putting a smile on their face, even if just for that moment,” said Downey who comes from an oncology family.
She explained how when one of your children is diagnosed with cancer, suddenly all that matters is living in the present moment. “It’s the little things that make a difference in these families lives,” Downey said.
Recalling one of her favourite drawings, Hellard said she was sneaking up to a house one morning when a woman and her son came walking out of the house.
Immediately, Hellard feared her surprise had been ruined, but the woman reassured her that the drawing was for her daughter, not her son.
Her son, a previous pediatric oncology patient, knew exactly what drawing his sister would want.
“He spent the next two hours with me showing me what he wanted done and crafting this perfect unicorn-cat for his sister based off his own cat,” said Hellard. “I just took direction from him and I think he made the drawing really special.”
Hellard is taking a break from being the chalk fairy over the fall and winters months, but hopes to return in the fall with a whole team of chalk fairies.
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