With Thor and Captain Marvel in her corner, Newcastle’s Abigail Breeze is ready to face any challenge.
That’s mainly due to numerous selfless volunteers banding together to help sick children in John Hunter Hospital.
Newcastle Permanent employees have joined forces to donate their time – and more than $13,000 – to deliver hundreds of Supertee: Marvel Edition medical garments, disguised as a superhero T-shirt, to those youngsters encountering tough times.
Like Abigail, who struggles with a daily battle few others have to endure.
At the age of two, she was diagnosed with Henoch-Schönlein purpura.
The rare disease causes the small blood vessels in your skin, joints, intestines and kidneys to become inflamed and bleed.
Her mum, Nicole Breeze, said in the early days of the now eight-year-old’s diagnosis it was overwhelming for her and their family.
“Despite being so young, Abigail was amazing in confronting the fear and uncertainty of hospital stays,” she explained.
“But, drips and tubes would get in the way of simple tasks like getting dressed, not to mention the dreaded green hospital gowns.”
Comfort came for the family in the form of Abigail’s Supertee: Marvel Edition.
It’s the brainchild of Jason Sotiris, a tradesman whose daughter was diagnosed with cancer at just one year old.
Like Nicole, he noticed his beautiful toddler would become distressed when her clothes became tangled in the lines attached to her tiny body.
“The idea for the Supertee came to me while comforting Angela, who was being treated for a cancer called Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis,” Mr Sotiris said.
“I felt helpless not being able to do the simple task of putting clean clothes on her with IV drips, chest monitor cables and central lines making it impossible.”
So, he invented a medical garment especially for children: the Supertee.
And, he’s got some big-name backers too, with Hollywood stars Chris Hemsworth and Brie Larson lending their support.
Now, his dream is simple: “To have a Supertee available for every child that needs one”.
“So far more than 13,000 Supertees have made their way into hospitals around Australia giving already brave children additional courage,” Mr Sotiris said.
“However, our goal is to help bring out the Captain America and Captain Marvel in all kids.”
It’s this story, which also caught the attention of staff at Newcastle Permanent.
“When we heard about Supertee, we were blown away,” chief strategy and governance officer Chris Cockburn said.
“Having been taken through all the garment’s features – the open underarms for thermometer access, press studs evenly spaced for bypass tubes and lines, as well as being PET scan and MRI friendly – it is clearly a really practical way to help sick kids.
“But, more than that, Supertee encourages children into the world of imaginative play, which is a wonderful gift in the sometimes distressing and often long hours spent in hospital.”
Thanks to Newcastle Permanent’s CommunityAssist Employee Donation Program, more than $13,000 will enable 311 children in hospital to receive a free Supertee.
Each year, staff donate about $60,000 via payroll deductions and nominate charities they believe deserve support.
“However, we also asked how we could make a difference beyond our donation,” Mr Cockburn said.
“And, the answer was to get hands-on through a Supertee packing event.
“Newcastle Permanent provides two days paid volunteering leave to support charities or community groups and this was a great opportunity to get directly involved.”
On 10 August, 25 staff members will pack the Supertee garments into their individual tins – each containing a hand-written note to help inspire a child and their family – to be delivered to kids in hospital.