Tyler Foundation Shine On!

by Alana Bonzi
Giving hope to kids with cancer and their families.

When Kimberly Forsythe-Ferris and Mark Ferris lost their young son Tyler to cancer, they looked for a way to keep his light, and that of many other victims, shining on. In 2006 they started the Tyler Foundation (TF).

Their flagship program is the “Shine On! Counseling and Support Program.” Clinical psychologists work with the kids in hospital and with their families.

Tyler Foundation’s chief clinical psychologist Satomi Funaki accompanies the children and their families throughout their treatment in hospital. From the moment they are admitted to the time they are discharged she is there to help. Along with other TF psychologists, Funaki organizes mom’s groups, providing counseling for parents and play therapy for kids.

tylerfoundation“A long hospital stay is not only boring for kids, but it also ends up being a very passive existence. Someone is always telling the kids ‘take this medicine, eat this food, deal with this treatment.’ There are very few chances for kids to make their own choices about their life in hospital. Our programs aim to empower rather than just entertain.” Says Kimberly Forsythe-Ferris, Executive Director of TF.

TF has a program called One T-shirt, One Life. “A child makes a drawing for their t-shirt design during their time in hospital. Only one t-shirt is printed. The single t-shirt symbolizes a child’s unique and precious life,” explains Funaki.

In August, another program, “Beads of Courage,” will start. Imported from the U.S., this program focuses on helping children through the most difficult times in their cancer treatment. TF is the sole representative in Japan and this program will be launched at Ibaraki Children’s Hospital in August. Already they have received numerous requests from other hospitals.

As a not-for-profit organization, TF thrives on the strength of its volunteers and sponsors. From the beginning they have been supported by a range of sports celebrities. International cricket stars were involved in the first fundraising event. Yomiuri Giants MVP Michihiro Ogasawara attended the official opening of the “Shine On! House” last April.

Shine On! House was created as a complete support facility for children with cancer and their families – providing everything from sibling childcare to emergency accommodation for parents and a safe, fun event space for in and out patients. Ogasawara has donated many items to the house including a refrigerator and mamachali bicycle. His old bats have been recycled into puzzles and nameplates on the door of house. He has visited the cancer ward of the National Center for Child Health and Development three times.

His most recent visit was the most touching as he “was playing a game with one of his biggest fans just hours before the patient slipped away,” according to Forsythe-Ferris. “Ogasawara has been absolutely great. So sensitive, so completely understanding of what we’re trying to do, and so very selfless.”

On October 2nd, the Tyler Foundation will hold their annual fundraising event with all proceeds going toward the launch of the “Shine On! Therapy Dog” program—a first in Japan.

Forsythe-Ferris explains: “I first met a ‘real’ therapy dog, Tucker, at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children two years ago and … have sold on the power of this concept since. I’ve met children who told me that when they were in the ICU and couldn’t even move, Tucker, the animal-assisted therapy dog, would jump up on their bed and just stay with them.

One girl told me that just feeling Tucker against her leg was something that she looked forward to every day and gave her the will to keep fighting. This is new to Japan and has taken quite a long time to put in place. Now, finally we’re ready for the dog,” says Forsythe-Ferris.

Of course, the goal at this event is to raise funds. But as always, the Tyler Foundation hopes to give their guests and supporters a memorable and fun evening. This year, the “Vegas Extravaganza,” will be held at the Grand Hyatt. Sir Tim Rice, award-winning lyricist, will debut two songs, co-written with Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken, that were created for this event. With their help, it will be a night to remember!

Ferris says: “There are so many great causes out there to support, but lots of people want to support us because cancer has touched their lives in some way. But I like to remind people that we’re making a difference right here in Japan. I invite all of our sponsors and supporters to come and see what we’re doing—see how we’re making changes to systems, see our kids, see our Shine On! House, attend our events. I’d like to think that the Tyler Foundation is not only an inspiration for the kids and families it supports, but to the community as well.”

For more information please visit: www.tylershineon.org