Summer Germann held her brother, Mac’s hand, as he took his last breath. At only 10-years-old, he fought AML & ALL Leukemia with courage and strength for one year until he passed away on November 26, 2002. During that year, 26-year-old Summer was with her brother in the hospital four to five times a week. She quit her job and became his sidekick and cheerleader.
“With my brother, every day was a celebration. You would never think he had cancer. He would play video games all day long and he would play pranks on the nurses,” Summer said with a chuckle.
According to Summer, Mac never complained. Even when he was in the hospital, he was full of life; a jokester and a “bull in a china shop.”
“If you were only going to live 10 years, Mac lived it so right,” Summer said.
A New Purpose in Life
Although Mac’s life ended too soon, Summer saw it as a beginning to start something new. At that very painful moment in her life, everything became clear to her. She knew one day that she would create something that would make a difference in the lives of hospitalized children.
“It was as though I had lived in a comfort zone for way too long and my soul was now free to take this one shot at life and to really make a difference,” Summer said.
Reflecting on their hundreds of days in the hospital, she quickly realized that gowns make young patients feel part of an institution. The drab and dull gowns didn’t reflect the strength or hope or bravery these kids show every single day.
She recalls seeing a photo of a her friend’s daughter, Maya, who was also battling Leukemia, full of joy and excitement because she was finally in remission from cancer. As, Maya, held her hands high in the air with the biggest smile on her face, Summer noticed she was wearing a plain, colorless hospital gown. It was that juxtaposition that made Summer come up with an idea to make a better hospital gown.
Summer instantly set to work creating what would become her passion project: Brave Gowns. During that time, she held extensive research studies and clinical trials with nurses and doctors whom she met during Mac’s treatment.
She not only made sure that Brave Gowns were the colorful, soft and comfortable, but that they provide more privacy, functionality and also met strict hospital protocol.
Collaborating with Starlight
By collaborating with Starlight, Summer knew that she could bring even more smiles to hundreds of thousands of hospitalized kids.
“After the initial meeting about partnering with Starlight, I knew Starlight was the right fit,” Summer said. “Everyone was just as passionate about the gowns as I was and had the background and partners to bring it to hospitals across the country,” Summer said.
Since the collaboration began in late 2016, Starlight has distributed 145,000 Starlight Gowns to hospitalized kids across the nation. Thanks to donors and partners; Michaels Stores, Joy in Childhood Foundation, Niagara Cares, Star Wars: Force for Change and Nintendo, kids can now turn into their favorite characters or artists, astronauts and doctors.
Starlight Gowns are Loved by Kids and Hospital Staff
Three-year-old Raylan was one of the first kids to receive a Starlight Gown. He goes in for frequent surgeries at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles to manage his Retinoblastoma which is an eye cancer that begins in the retina.
Raylan proudly wears his gown for every examination.
“He loved his gown and did not want to take it off after surgery. The gown was perfect in every way,” Elizabeth, Raylan’s mom said after her son wore a Starlight Gown for the first time. “He will never wear another gown again!”
The gowns have snaps on the shoulders which allow for a quick and easy wardrobe change. They also tie on the side instead of down the back, so they’re less revealing and more comfortable.
“The functionality is great. It’s very accessible when we want to reach the upper arm or a child’s port, we can just unsnap and the ties stay very secure as well, which is wonderful,”
Said Becca Wagner, Certified Child Life Specialist at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital in Virginia.
A Starlight Gown for Every Child Who Needs One
Millions of kids are hospitalized every year, and our goal is to give a Starlight Gown to every hospitalized child who needs ones.
“I’ve seen the magic that Starlight does. I have faith that the gowns program is going to continue to get bigger and better,” Summer said.
Donate today and you can help more kids and their families feel the joy and comfort of a Starlight Gown.