Bricks of Hope was launched in December of 2021, but our story started over 20 years ago when Adam (Executive Director / Founder of Bricks of Hope) was diagnosed with Leukemia on his 11th birthday.
This mission was born through that personal journey where play was a critical component in the recovery for a sick kid. And it's here today to share that feeling with so many other kids today as they recover . . . creating play, sparking connections, and building hope by delivering LEGO® to them during their hospital stays.
A birthday gift for a lifetime . . .
It’s always the unexpected that challenges us to find something deep down inside. That was the case when I was 10.
Always a happy, healthy, and LEGO-loving kid – there was nothing I enjoyed more than pizza, playing soccer, and spending hours upon hours in the basement building original masterpieces with my bricks. I had unlimited imagination and control to play with and there was nothing that was going to get in my way.
At least until my 11th birthday.
I can remember to this day the blur that was my 11th birthday. For weeks before, I had not been feeling well – often getting sick in school, getting lazy on the soccer field, and making far too many visits to the family physician for a ten-year-old. But it finally came to the point when our family doctor was out of his league in trying to diagnose me, and he recommended we see a specialist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge. This was the day before my 11th birthday.
That was the beginning of the next chapter in my life. I was plucked from the joys and happiness of being a kid and was about to start a fight for my life. In a mere 24 hours since arriving at the hospital, I was poked and prodded a lifetime’s worth by so many doctors and nurses that it became evident something was seriously wrong. By the next day, I was only focused on one thing – was I going to get a new LEGO for my birthday?!
My family of eight had all made their way to the hospital that night to pull together a makeshift birthday party in the 2nd floor community room. Cake, balloons, and lots of presents were the perfect distraction for an otherwise dark cloud above. Oh, and you guessed it, I got LOTS of LEGO for my 11th birthday and nothing was going to wipe that smile from my face . . . until later. When we were done celebrating, we had made our way back to my room where my doctors were waiting. Most of that moment is a blur, but all I remember hearing is . . .
“Adam, you have cancer.”
At that age, I didn’t know what that meant or the impact that it would have on my life but seeing my parents in tears was enough to understand what lied ahead. My Leukemia diagnosis was curable, and my doctors immediately laid out a plan of action to treat it and send me on my way. I mean, the only thing I was concerned about was when I’d be able to get back on the soccer field.
But it wasn’t that easy . . . is it ever that easy for a kid facing a life-threatening diagnosis?
The next day I started a full dose of treatment, and my body immediately began to fail in response – a bright outlook suddenly turned very dark. I ended up making the hospital home for 6 straight months that year, filled with surgeries, treatments, fighting through pain and discomfort, and ultimately losing every bit of control that a kid should have on their life.
But for me, there was always something that helped bridge the way through . . . the simplicity of LEGO®.
The generosity of family, friends, an extended network of people who cared, and even nurses gave the gift of LEGO® throughout my stay and during the years to follow in all the visits for treatment and follow-up appointments.
And during each of those moments I was provided with the opportunity to play like a kid again . . . to have an imagination outside of the hospital walls . . . and I had a small sense of control restored since being forced into an environment where I could no longer make choices. Even if I didn’t know it back then, play was absolutely critical in my recovery, and it was always rooted with LEGO®.
It is through that feeling that Bricks of Hope was created – to deliver that same opportunity to more sick kids during their hospital stays.
I’m nearly 21 years out since I was diagnosed with Leukemia on my 11th birthday, and it is my aim to create more play and inspire greater imagination in sick children by delivering LEGO® to them during their hospital stays.
It has taken me awhile to fully know my ‘why’ and I believe this is it – to use my story and passion for such a simple act of play to help more sick kids. I’m not only hopeful that you’ve read to this point, but I’m hopeful that you feel inspired to help and to be the catalyst in a sick kid’s recovery by simply giving the gift of LEGO®.
Always give more,
Executive Director / Founder
Bricks of Hope