When Skyler Hamilton was born, his mother called him her miracle baby. He was perfect.
It wasn’t until he turned 7 years old when the family noticed something wasn’t quite right. What started as a limp quickly progressed into something unimaginable.
Three months later, Skyler was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive brain tumor, medulloblastoma.
On August 13, 2006, Skyler was admitted to Seattle Children’s. Four days later, he had surgery to have the tumor removed.
“His tumor was so advanced,” said Margaret Hamilton, Skyler’s mom. “It was the worst nightmare you could imagine.”
The tumor had spread from Skyler’s brain into his spinal cord. Following his initial surgery, he underwent radiation and chemotherapy. For 10 months, Skyler was in the hospital fighting for his life.
“It was a fight the whole time,” said Hamilton. “But he got through it. It was a miracle. We had a great team of doctors watching over us.”
A new outlook
After nearly a year of intense treatment, Skyler was cancer-free, but the toll the radiation and chemotherapy took on his developing body had lasting effects. He doesn’t remember much from his time at Seattle Children’s, but the memories he does have are mostly fond.
“You wouldn’t think he would want to go back, but he loves the hospital,” said Hamilton. “He wants to help others.”
During his stay at the hospital, Skyler learned how isolating and scary an experience like that can be for a child. He was away from school, home and the activities he loved.
Giving back to the hospital that saved him
In 2011, his church group started brainstorming different ways to give back to the community, and Skyler had an idea. He and his friends came up with a project to help children at the hospital feel a little less lonely. They made sock puppets so every child would have a friend by their side while in the hospital. Skyler hoped the puppets would help patients cope with being in the hospital, and that staff could use them to help patients express their emotions openly.
“My experience in the hospital inspired me,” said Skyler. “I wanted kids in the hospital to have a companion.”
Building a friend
Today, Skyler is reigniting his sock puppet idea for an Eagle Scout project. He plans to make 100 “Puppet Patients” kits. Each kit comes with a build-your-own sock puppet children can personalize, adoption papers and a DVD with inspiring and uplifting messages.
“I really wanted to give back to the hospital that helped me so much,” said Skyler. “If I was there at the hospital with the kids, I would tell them that yes, this is a hard time and it may be scary, but you are here for a purpose. You are going to have brighter days ahead. That future is better than what you are experiencing and going through right now. You’re going to get through this.”
Skyler hopes the sock puppets help take the scariness out of the hospital and bring children and their families a little bit of joy. He plans to have the kits finished by the start of the year and to personally deliver them to the hospital.
“I want to help kids be brave and never feel alone,” said Skyler. “I want them to be strong, and to never give up. I want them to know they are special just the way they are. I also hope to inspire others to give back to those who need it most.”