By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Charity calendars are a staple in any new year and, for 2024, a courageous young boy from Cobourg graces the July page of the one put out for OPACC (Ontario Parents Advocating for Children with Cancer).
This Barrie-based registered charity has supported families of children diagnosed with cancer since 1995. As the family of four-year-old Hendrix Armes helped him through acute lymphocytic leukemia throughout 2023, they became very grateful for OPACC.
Interviewed this week, Hendrix’s mother Jenna Devlin recalled that it’s not even a year since the diagnosis. As she recounts those intensive months, he is content to let her tell the tale as he scrolls happily on his iPad next to his huge collection of toy trucks, stepping out only for a moment to go upstairs for a double armful of teddy bears to bring down for company.
It was Feb. 23, 2023, when they heard the awful diagnosis, and things began to move at a dizzying pace as Hendrix was whisked to the Hospital for Sick Children for blood and platelet transfusions.
“There we were, travelling to Sick Kids with the clothes on our back, and never left for a month,” Jenna recalled.
Long days at the hospital ensued. A new vocabulary was acquired, as they learned more about their child’s condition and treatment. New challenges were faced, as they helped Hendrix – at the age of three – to deal with the pain and get through the fear.
“We have been through the wringer,” she stated.
One thing that helped get them through was discovering OPACC and the comfort they provided, both spiritual and material.
For Hendrix, they brought notes of cheer – cool pillowcases, toys, cuddly stuffed animals.
For his parents, there might be a voucher to help with the parking or to grab a much-needed coffee break in the cafeteria – and sometimes, just a shoulder to lean on.
And for the family, there was the occasional much-needed break in the form of tickets to an Argos, Marlies or Blue Jays game (and, on one special occasion, to the Ripley’s Aquarium).
Wonderful things made possible, Jenna said, because of OPACC and its donors.
Three-year-old boys are at an age where they are continuously growing and changing. In Hendrix’s case, the adorable little boy with the shy smile has become “a pretty tough, resilient kid,” his mother said – “a pretty amazing kid.
“He’s been through a lot and shown his resilience through every procedure. He grew up pretty quickly – he lost his third year of life – but he’s become pretty independent. He knows way too much.”
That strength would be needed for a second challenge that 2023 brought to them. Hendrix started the year with one diagnosis and ended the year with another one that put him back into Sick Kids. On Nov. 28, the verdict was Type 1 diabetes, and he was sent back to hospital for an episode of diabetic ketoacidosis.
Characteristically, he has taken to the new regimen of needles and blood tests with an amazing matter-of-fact attitude.
And that challenging year ended with a sense of great pride when Hendrix made the July page of the calendar.
The organization welcomed submissions for their calendar, so Jenna found a picture she loved from September, when he didn’t have hair (and he took the natural curiosity of his classmates about this with typical aplomb, she reported).
Jenna put together a write-up and sent it in. She was so proud when it was selected, and so pleased to help out this wonderful organization which, but for a terrible diagnosis a year ago, she might never have heard of.
You can get your own copy of the calendar at www.opacc.org/shop for $15 each (with a discount for orders of three or more). The proceeds will go towards the work OPACC is doing with childhood-cancer families.