How Two Kids’ Friendship Created Lasting Holiday Magic

My son Hunter and his cousin Nolan have shared an incredible bond their whole lives – more than just being family. They were best friends from the moment they laid eyes on each other.  


Nolan thought of Hunter as his sibling from the moment he was born, asking if he could see his “brudder.” Our boys were inseparable, partners in crime, and two peas in a pod. They loved playing with dinosaurs, sharing ice cream, and dreaming up the most extraordinary adventures. 


I am always so proud that me and my sister Tarnya raised our boys so that they could be as close as we are.  


But life had different plans for them 


At birth, Nolan had pneumonia. His first weeks were spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where he had a feeding tube and required oxygen. Nolan’s tiny heart and body fought through those early struggles, and over time, he was referred to paediatricians and specialists at Children’s Hospital – who remain a crucial part of our lives.  


I was right by Tarnya’s side each step of the way. And so was Children’s.  


Our family still relies on Children’s to keep Nolan strong, and we are so grateful.  


After Nolan’s birth, we hoped we’d never need the hospital for something so urgent ever again 


That just wasn’t meant to be.

A paediatric cancer patient sitting on a window ledge on a sunny day.My beautiful son Hunter was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer in March of 2020. Our family was devastated – and the COVID-19 pandemic added an additional layer of isolation and heartache.

As his mother, I thankfully could stay by his bedside during those scary weeks and months, but to keep us safe and Hunter as healthy as possible we couldn’t have any visitors. 

Tarnya and Nolan kept us company through dozens of Facetime calls every day. 

Unfortunately, Hunter’s initial treatment of chemo rounds didn’t bring the results we hoped for, and we faced so many challenges. Our time together in the hospital was marked by pain and uncertainty

But also, a lot of love. We gained so much strength from Nolan and Hunter’s friendship. When Hunter was at his most vulnerable, Nolan always brought a smile to his face – racing toy cars and playing dinosaurs through video calls 


When Tarnya and Nolan couldn’t be by our side, Children’s Health Foundation and the Children’s Hospital played a crucial role in our journey, offering support and comfort.  


Child Life Specialists, personal support workers, and countless others became our extended family, providing care, companionship and a shoulder to lean on. They really helped us both put one step in front of the other and push on  


We even saw our community come out to support us. Not anticipating so many birthdays spent in the hospital, our community was coming together to help plan a birthday parade for Hunter 


The fire department of Ingersoll was even going to come – they were all going to drive by to wish Hunter a happy birthday.  


My boy was going to be the King of Ingersoll.  


But again, it wasn’t meant to be.  

A paediatric cancer patient smiling in bed.When we were in the hospital again for unexpected appendicitis during Hunter’s birthday and his chemotherapy treatments, a simple act of kindness brightened our day. While I scrounged together powdered sugar doughnuts into Hunter’s room to celebrate, out of nowhere, a group of nurses walked in with a pillowcase filled with new presents. 

The joy that filled Hunter’s eyes as he unwrapped those gifts was a testament to the incredible difference these simple acts of kindness can make

As we worked through those weeks and months, sharing Hunter’s journey with our community and trying to keep in best of spirits, we had to face the words no one ever wants to hear.  


In late April of 2021, Hunter became palliative, and I brought him home to spend his final weeks close to Tarnya and Nolan.  


Hunter passed away just two weeks after Nolan’s 7th birthday in May of 2021. To say it was heartbreaking doesn’t quite describe it.  


I just didn’t know how I was going to get through the death of my son, and neither did Nolan.  


The loss of his cousin and best friend was hard for 7-year-old Nolan. It wasn’t until he saw Hunter’s ashes buried that Nolan really understood Hunter wasn’t coming back.  


It took quite a bit of time for Nolan and me to feel what had happened. That Hunter was gone  


But a couple of months after Hunter died, we were all at my house together and Nolan asked something incredibly special.  


He still wanted to have chocolate cake for Hunter’s Birthday, hold the birthday parade Hunter never got and collect Hunter’s gifts.  


When Tarnya and I made it clear that Hunter wasn’t going to be able to use the gifts, Nolan didn’t hesitate – he asked right away if we could donate them to Children’s Hospital so other sick kids could have them 


I’ll never forget what I said to Tarnya:It’s golden.” I loved it.  

Nolan and Sarah in a room surrounded by donated gifts.

Planning this toy drive together was a way for Nolan and me to grieve. We got to celebrate the things that made Hunter happy in the hospital – the incredible toys, the Children’s staff, and our community that supported him. 

Then before we knew it, our community had filled a twelve-foot truck. In that moment, we knew the support would continue. 

Now every year, we bring these toys to Children’s Health Foundation and join their over 25-year legacy of bringing holiday joy to kids at Children’s Hospital with their Toy Drive. 


This year, while the toy drive continues, Tarnya, Nolan and I also wanted to do something a little bit different.  


I wanted to share Hunter’s story with you in hopes that your generosity will turn into donations to Children’s Health Foundation.   


We even found a matching donor – so every gift received before December 1, 2023, will be matched! That means $50 becomes $100 and $100 becomes $200 – this will make a HUGE impact on the lives of so many children!   


My son’s remarkable spirit touched everyone he encountered at the hospital – he had a smile and a resilience that inspired us all. As my incredible family Tarnya, Nolan and I help his legacy live on, we hope you’ll join us in honouring Hunter and give a donation to Children’s Health Foundation.  


This is your chance to honour the memory of my smiling, dinosaur, toy-car loving son, and offer more kids like Hunter and Nolan the best possible care in hard times 


With my personal gratitude, 



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