Smiles From Sean brings emojis to UPMC Children’s Hospital
These emojis are aimed at creating real smiles.
Bright yellow pillows, cinch bags, stress balls and key chains decorated with smiling faces will be given to kids at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in Lawrenceville.
Sean Rovers, 11, of Bethel Park came up with the idea to create happiness for kids in the hospital. He was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor in 2017.
On Thursday, Smiles From Sean traveled to the hospital to deliver 223 pillows, 236 cinch bags, 288 stress balls and 52 key chains as well as a check for $3,885.55 to the hospital’s Child Life Department. This department provides developmental, educational, social and emotional support to children of all ages.
“All of these emoji items will go to patients to help put smiles on their faces,” said Kathi Exler, special events and donation coordinator for the Child Life Department at the hospital. “And the money will be used to buy toys from LEGOs to Play-Doh for the play room to help kids stay normal. Sean is an amazing kid.”
Sean’s mother, Maria Rovers, said they want to give back because the hospital community helped them get through the “lowest point of their lives.”
An annual routine check-up in 2017 revealed that Sean had lost almost 10 pounds in one year. Testing showed a tumor the size of a golf ball on the lining of his brain. He had surgery on Oct. 24, 2017, Rovers said.
On March 5, 2018, a test showed the tumor returned, and two more had developed. He had surgery the next month followed by six weeks of radiation.
There are only a handful of patients with this type of tumor in the country, so it is difficult to predict what will happen, said Dr. James Felker, an assistant professor of pediatric neuro-oncology at the hospital.
Sean would wake up smiling after each surgery, Rovers said. His face would be swollen and head wrapped in bandages, but he’d be smiling. Sean said he believes we need more smiles in today’s world.
Sean, who started sixth grade at Neil Armstrong Middle School in the Bethel Park School District on Wednesday, returns to the hospital for follow-up tests in October.
“This makes me happy,” he said. “I know what it’s like to be in a hospital and get stuck with needles. So if I can help another kid, I want to.”
Sean was smiling Thursday seeing all of the emoji items unloaded where they will be given to the children who might be having a tough day.
“We are constantly praying for his scans to be clean,” his mom said. “This helps us focus on a positive outlook and it helps us to remember to keep smiling.”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, [email protected] or via Twitter .