Darren’s Pack donates playhouse to hospital
Plus game systems for oncology unit
WILMINGTON, DEL. — Darren Leonard and his parents Lauren and Derrick are no strangers to the oncology department at Nemours A.I. duPont Hospital for Children due to a brain tumor that Darren was diagnosed with as an infant, but the Leonards have taken their diagnosis as an opportunity to promote awareness of childhood cancer and support others who are on the same difficult journey.
In September 2015, Lauren Leonard, founder of Darren’s Pack, a group dedicated to offering support to Darren and his friends, created a Super Hero Walk and Family Fun Day to raise funds for a custom Lilliput playhouse for the outpatient oncology center at Nemours.
With the funds raised from the Super Hero Walk and two other fundraisers, a 100-mile ride from the Chesapeake Bay to Ocean City, completed by Derrick Leonard, and a raffle, Darren’s Pack raised $18,000 total. Darren’s Pack presented a check for $15,000 for the playhouse project to Nemours on March 30. The playhouse is being custom built to meet the specific needs of
Nemours’ patients and will be worked into the design of a new outpatient oncology clinic scheduled to open in 2017.
“We just want to say thank you to everyone who has rallied around us from the very second that we dreamed up building a play home at the hospital. From those who supported Derrick riding over 100 miles on his bicycle in eight hours, to the very last sponsor who graciously came forward to help with our big Xbox project just a few weeks ago,” Leonard said.
“We’re so blessed to live in Queen Anne’s County, and be surrounded by people who are compassionate, giving, kind, and are always willing and ready to help a neighbor.”
She said she created the “Darren’s Pack” Facebook page to update friends and family on Darren’s journey with childhood cancer, but it has turned into much more.
“We’re excited that we’ll soon be at the drawing board with Nemours and Lilliput Play Homes to help design the play home that we raised money for at our Super Hero Family Fun Day,” said Leonard, “The play home will give kids something fun to do when they come for treatment. We can’t wait!”
With some extra funds left over after the playhouse, the Leonards were discussing with the hospital the greatest needs specifically relating to the oncology department. It was mentioned that gaming systems were really needed to help keep the patients, especially older children, occupied during their inpatient stays. The oncology department at Nemours has 24 rooms and because of decreased immunity levels most often patients are not allowed in common areas.
Leonard discovered the systems were $300 each, and with the funds remaining from the playhouse project, they were able to purchase eight Xbox game systems. However, eight wasn’t enough when Leonard knew they had 24 rooms to fill.
“We are very blessed to live in a small town that has been absolutely incredible through our almost seven year cancer journey with Darren. They’re always ready to help, and we knew that together, with our Darren’s Pack community, we could fulfill the 24 Xbox One systems,” said Leonard.
Together with sponsorships from 16 families, groups, individuals and business owners the remaining systems were purchased and delivered to the oncology department.
We’ve been within the walls of this hospital, and we know that it feels far from home, said Leonard.
When the hospital mentioned their request, Leonard recalled a similar situation from their days as an inpatient.
“Two sweet boys, Sammy and Noxah, were both fighting Leukemia and in the rooms next door to ours when Darren was diagnosed at 9 weeks old. Noxah had an Xbox, and was able to play live with his friends back home, but Sammy did not,” she said. “When their counts were good, they could sit in Noxah’s room and play together, but when their immune systems were low, they weren’t allowed to do that.
“One evening, while in the kitchen of the unit, we couldn’t help but overhear Sammy begging his mom for an Xbox of his own. My husband didn’t miss a beat walking out of the hospital to go buy an Xbox soon after. Sammy was so sick from his chemo that evening, but the smile that came across his face when we surprised him with his own Xbox is forever ingrained in our hearts.”
The 16 Xbox One Systems needed to complete the 24-room project were presented to the hospital on June 3.
While Darren is not cancer free, his brain tumor is stable, which allows him to be off treatment, and live life as a “normal” 6-year-old.
She said, “Darren will be seven years diagnosed in October, and we’re celebrating ‘normal’ right now while he’s off of chemo. His brain tumor is deep in his brain, so we only go into active treatment when his tumors are showing growth or progression.”
The Leonards said they are thankful to have such an incredible hospital caring for their son, and they will continue to do what they can to make a difference in the lives of families.
Leonard said she is looking forward to developing their next project with Nemours.
“To make a difference in someone’s world, you don’t have to be amazing, rich, talented, beautiful or perfect. You just have to be you and care,” she said.
“We want to say thank you to the many who have supported our family through this (almost 7 year) journey. While we know that life with cancer is far from over, we know that no matter what, everyone has our back. A feeling that takes worry away, and that’s all thanks to the small town feel that Queen Anne’s County embodies!”
Darren and a friend help deliver the X-box One game systems to Nemours in Wilmington.
2015 Super Hero Family Fun Day and Walk, Darren as Superman with dad, Derrick Leonard, his mom, Lauren Leonard and little sisters.
Darren Leonard and dad, Derrick Leonard, at the Ocean City inlet. Derrick biked from the Chesapeake Bay to raise money to support the fundraiser for a playhouse for Nemours patients.