By Richard Dunn
It is never easy writing about our son, Julian, who passed away six years ago because of brain cancer, 46 days shy of his 10th birthday. If alive and healthy, he would be getting his driver’s license this week.
What we can embrace is an opportunity to celebrate him. Julian’s Lego Corner in the Child Life Department at Children’s Hospital of Orange County is named after him and a dear friend has decided to kick things up a notch.
Julian’s longtime friend and neighbor, Lauren Roberts, a sophomore volleyball player at Pacifica Christian High School in Newport Beach, and her friends are leading the march during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September to benefit Julian’s Lego Corner. They started a baking service project and plan to sell their goods to raise funds year-round for the play area.
“Julian touched so many people,” Roberts said. “I want to keep his legacy going.”
In partnership with Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store in Newport Beach, Roberts and her friends are selling cotton candy and cupcakes with all proceeds going to a fundraising effort that includes 100% of all sales at Sgt. Pepperoni’s on Sept. 10 going to Julian’s Lego Corner.
Designed to help CHOC patients develop fine motor skills, gain independence and experience the joy of building, Julian’s Lego Corner has been sustainable since its inception in 2014 because of generous donors. Constructing the colorful and elaborate brick Lego kits can be fun, therapeutic and leave a lasting conversation piece. Patients who are seriously ill can experience a sense of reprieve and liberation while undergoing the unthinkable rigors of cancer treatments.
My wife, Andrea, and I started Julian’s Lego Corner because of the desire to help other children suffering from chronic illnesses receive a brand new Lego. Only unopened boxes of new Legos are permitted to be distributed at CHOC, and new Lego kits, blocks and accessories are distributed to patients of all ages, particularly on the oncology unit and in the Outpatient Infusion Center.
Through her baking efforts, Roberts and her friends are starting a service project called “Sweet Things,” because “we all love baking, and wanted to do something for others, to live out our purpose on this earth,” she said. “We feel like we’re doing the right thing.”
Through their parents and a math teacher, Roberts and her friends have learned about food handling licenses, managing costs and scaling. They bake and package the products either at home or at Sgt. Pepperoni’s, where her father, Jeff, is one of four owners.
“This reminds everybody that Julian was such an awesome person,” Roberts said, “I’m so happy we can do this. Chemo is definitely such a hard thing to go through. Even if this can keep their mind off the chemo for one minute, it’s totally worth it.”
Also, 100% of the proceeds from Sgt. Pepperoni’s September Pie of the Month, the Quattro Formagi, will be donated, while guests are also encouraged to donate a new Lego kit of their choice at the pizza store any time during the month. A collection box is located in the front lobby.
Of all “Sweet Things” purchases, which are available year-round in Sgt. Pepperoni’s Grab and Go Case, 100% of the proceeds will be donated to Julian’s Lego Corner.
Find out more about Julian’s Lego Corner at choc.org, by searching the name.