Little Big Steps helping kids with cancer to get moving
When kids get cancer, the last thing they want to do is exercise. Often their lives have been turned upside down and the things they love doing are suddenly out of reach.
Movement helps cancer kids tolerate treatment better. It enhances their mental health and for the many who beat cancer, it helps them return to their previous lives. But for parents, getting sick kids to move can be a challenge.
Founders Cindy Bakos and Cassandra Howcroft met in the oncology ward of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. Both were navigating the devastating experience of seeing their child living with cancer.
For his birthday, Lochlan Howcroft received a fitness watch and it was a game-changer. Lochlan had something that inspired him to move and in addition, it helped him cope a little better with the treatment. His lethargy, brought on by the grueling nature of his treatment, became a thing of the past.
Cindy and Cassandra asked themselves the question – how many other physically able oncology children could benefit from such a device? The question inspired them to establish Little Big Steps in June 2018.
Little Big Steps uses technology (activity trackers), youthful interest in technology and devices and practitioner-supported exercise medicine programs to get kids moving. Every small amount of movement counts and the programs give kids achievable goals and much needed support. The more Little Big Steps can keep kids moving, both in hospital and at home, the stronger they are at the end of treatment, and the easier it is for them to enjoy the activities they love.
Recently, Little Big Steps partnered with the Melbourne Boomers Women’s Basketball team. During lockdown these inspirational women were connecting with cancer kids and motivating them to move.
Zahli, age 11, is just one of many who experienced a one-on-one session with Boomers player Panina Davidson. Zahli has Ewing Sarcoma, a type of bone / soft tissue cancer that primarily occurs in children and young adults. She has had a tibia rod inserted as well as a knee replacement. For Zahli this means movement is especially important for her to get back to something close to normal activity. For Zahli, her time with Panina brought huge smiles but also inspiration to keep active – and when kids with cancer smile, it’s a special day.
The ongoing physiotherapy support that Little Big Steps provides is not part of normal care for kids with cancer. Resources in hospitals are limited, and kids like Zahli need much more to ensure they have the best chance possible to return to normal life.
Little Big Steps has the ambitious goal of providing physiotherapy support to every child with cancer in Australia. Every extra physiotherapist they can fund means more kids can get back to the things they love faster. Every $100,000 raised allows Little Big Steps to hire a fulltime physio at one hospital. As experienced by all charitable and for-purpose organisations, the pandemic has made fundraising more challenging, but the need to support kids like Zahli hasn’t gone away.
Little Big Steps helps kids to smile, get them moving and back doing the things that kids love.
To learn more about how Little Big Steps changes the lives of kids with cancer, visit here.