Oliver Smith is a shy 10-year-old Nova Scotia boy who loves hockey, but when he was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer, he transformed his personal battle into something bigger.
Enter the Olliebots.
The cheerful bots built of wood blocks and hockey laces draw inspiration from the Transformers of cartoon and movie fame led by the good-guy Autobots. But the Olliebots are helping Oliver fight not the evil Decepticons, but Ewing sarcoma, an aggressive and painful cancer that attacks bones or soft tissue.
They sell for $20 and some of that money will go to the Ewings Cancer Foundation of Canada and some to help other kids in the area who need to travel to Halifax or further for medical treatment, as Oliver did.
Oliver had been dealing with a sore leg for about a year, but the Antigonish boy figured he’d hurt it playing sports.
“He plays hockey and softball. We were treating it like a sports injury and it would come and go,” said Bryan Smith, his father. “He started to not feel good at nighttime, waking up through the night, and that got us back to the doctor.”
On Valentine’s Day 2017, the Smiths learned Oliver had Ewing sarcoma in his hip. A hard spring and summer of chemotherapy and radiation treatment followed. In August, as the family awaited a post-treatment evaluation, they looked for useful ways to keep busy.
Facebook loves the Olliebots
“He’s really active, and we didn’t know how active he was going to be once we got his final evaluation. I was looking for something for us to do outside of the normal physical activity we take part in,” Bryan Smith said.
Smith enjoys working with wood and together with a friend cut the first two Olliebots and added stickers for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Oliver’s favourite team. “I surprised Oliver with them one morning and he thought they were neat.”
Others thought they were neat, too, and what was a fun family project turned into a fundraiser. “It kind of exploded once it hit Facebook,” Bryan Smith said.
They got orders for 50 Olliebots that first night and now have 310 orders. They’ve made 200 and spent Friday morning preparing the wood for another 100. Most come with an NHL logo, or a local team. A staff member of the Pittsburgh Penguins sent helmet decals, as did a person with the Chicago Blackhawks.
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