GANDER, NL – After finishing his meal, eight-year-old Paul Oram runs into the playroom of a local restaurant franchise.
He kicks off his shoes and joins the other children at play. The squeal of excitement can be heard as he rushes down a slide.
Nearby, his father – Deon Oram – is keeping a watchful eye as he sips on a coffee.
The Glovertown man can’t help but smile at the child’s laughter, because it wasn’t always so carefree.
When Paul was three years old, two lumps were found on his throat. What was initially thought to be tonsillitis turned out to be Burkitt’s lymphoma – a rare and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that develops most often in children and young adults, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.
He would spend six and a half months from the time of diagnosis to his final treatment undergoing intense rounds of chemotherapy to rid himself of the cancer.
The family was approached by the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, a charity that grants the wishes of children diagnosed with life-threatening illness. When asked his wish, Paul wanted to meet “Buzz Lightyear,” of Toy Story fame. It resulted in the Orams going on three-day Disney cruise and visiting Disneyland.
The gesture always stayed with them, and they started raising funds upon returning to support the Children’s Wish cause.
“Just to see and feel the joy and excitement that it created for my son, we knew we had to do something to help others experience that,”Deon said. “Because a little hope puts a smile on everybody’s face.”
Paul still undergoes annual testing, and if all goes well, on May 15 he will be declared five-years cancer-free.
To mark the upcoming occasion, Deon asked Paul what he wanted as a gift. Taking a break from playing, Paul came over to the table to share his response.
“I wanted to make five kids smile,” the eight-year-old said, meaning he wanted to be able grant five Children’s Wish wishes.
“One person made me smile, so I wanted to make five kids smile because I’m five years in remission, a.k.a cancer free.”
To make this happen, the Orams are looking to raise $50,000. Deon has reached out to businesses, work colleagues, and placed donation cans throughout central Newfoundland. But the biggest success has been the Team Paul Cancer Slayer Online Auction, which can be found on Facebook, and currently has its second auction underway. Approximately $35,000 has been raised so far.
“The support we’ve had has been overwhelming, time-and-time again the people of Newfoundland and Labrador continue to show how unbelievably generous they actually are,” Deon said.
But there’s still a lot of work left to be done.
“We’re up to three-and-a-half wishes, we’ve got another one-and-half to go,” he said. “But the pledge is the pledge and we are continuing towards that goal.”
Children’s Wish Foundation provincial director Edie Newton had nothing but praise for the Orams.
“It’s very honourable that (Paul) has chosen to make his five-year cancer free celebration a pay it forward event,” said Newton. “The hope, the joy and the healing that a wish brings continues on for a lifetime for most of our children. I think they understand that impact, and they are working so hard to grant those five wishes.”
The Team Paul Cancer Slayer Online Auction runs until April 30, 8 p.m. Persons interested in bidding, must be a member of the Facebook page to take part in the auction.