It was around the beginning of February that Erin and I discussed the idea of doing a children’s book for Roy. We wanted to give something back to the hospital and staff that had given us so much. In addition to honoring Roy’s memory, we were also keen to create something positive that would allow his spirit to keep living on. For us both, looking forward is just as important as looking back and we want Roy there with us every step of the way. This seemed like a good idea so we started writing the script and the imagination went into overdrive.
Reading has to be one of the greatest and most productive ways for parents to build that relationship with their child. When Roy was on the ECMO machine at the Children’s Hospital, we felt closest to him when we were reading him stories throughout the day. We developed a love and appreciation of children’s books and how they could brighten up your day with a fun story or a rhyme. Little rhymes, crazy stories, and silly voices – the things you do to get a reaction from a child. Dr. Seuss was a personal favorite of mine. I thought it was absolute genius how creative it was and how it flowed effortlessly. How could you not smile and laugh when reading those books?!
When we were introduced to our illustrator, Garth Bruner, our dream became a reality. Not only is he an extremely talented man (as you will see), but he also took the time to personally invest in our story. We wanted to personalize the character of Soccer Roy as much as possible. He had to look a certain way, with certain mannerisms, and Garth was more than accommodating in every aspect of this book. We thank him for his patience and his hard work. We would also like to thank our publisher James Lumsden-Cook at Bennion Kearny who also played a huge part in helping us along the way.
Why is the Children’s Hospital LA so important to us? It is difficult to put it into words. When Roy was diagnosed with his condition in late September, we had two months to prepare for a very complex and difficult situation. It can be very daunting, not to mention stressful, thinking about going through something like this in one of the biggest cities in the world – thousands of miles away from our families and friends. We didn’t know what to expect, but what we experienced was nothing short of phenomenal. The staff at CHLA went above and beyond in their care of Roy and the hospitality that they showed towards us. Spending so much time in the NICU unit, it is natural that you create a relationship with the staff, but these people were so special. Roy was never a patient to them, and instead more like a member of their own family. They laughed with us and cried with us. One night when we next door to get some sleep, Erin got a text of from one of the nurses with a picture of Roy, little smile and eyes wide open, with a message that said, “Hi Mom!” Every day we felt that we were fortunate to be there and, looking back, we truly were.
Any time we went downstairs for a coffee or some fresh air, we got a sense that the hospital was providing the same level of care to hundreds of other families, not just ourselves. There were activities organized every day to put smiles on children’s faces along with an incredible support system. It creates a sense of community amongst every person in the hospital – staff, doctors, nurses, patients and families. When you are going through a tough time, as every family is, that level of support can keep you strong and positive when you most need it.
As you can imagine, Soccer Roy is not only close to our heart, it is our heart. This is something that has helped us immensely through the past six months. We have had fun discussing ideas and ways to make the book as great as it can be. It is not a sad book, but a happy one. Soccer Roy’s character represents many things: a celebration of love, family, happiness, positive attitude, energy, all played out with a young child who has a love of soccer. We need as much help as we can get to get the word out: Buy a copy (or a couple for friends), take a photo, post it on your social media, and tag ourselves. Soccer Roy is worth it! Thank you so much for your support!