The Janeway Children's Hospital is very close to my heart, and I know that it is near and dear to many of you who read this blog as well. Last year, while doing my Christmas shopping, I discovered Wyatt's Stars ornaments - a fundraiser for the Janeway, and a beautiful memorial to a precious baby boy. I started my collection then, excited to add another meaningful decoration to our tree - a tree that already holds so many beautiful memories. Nestled between layers of wooden beads and strings of white lights are reminders of places and people and magical moments that we never want to forget. I didn't know Wyatt or his family, but I knew that his stars belonged on our tree.
Five years sounds like such a long
time. When you begin something, when you build a plan that reaches that
far, what you’re really doin
As we move into the fifth and final year of the Wyatt’s Stars Project, I
feel the undeniable pull of the path we’ve taken and I cannot help but
look back, through all that it has been and where it all began.
Wyatt James Lane was our Little Star, from the moment he burst into our
lives – early, in distress, and in the midst of an already turbulent
time of grief and change in our family. His arrival was a flurry of
cold, bright fear, desperate, furious, frenetic activity and an
inconceivable blending of heartache and hope, despair and determination.
He was a fighter from the start. We could do little but sit
by and watch as he struggled, survived and conquered. We brought him
home, amidst even more family grief and turmoil. He was our bright
spot, silver and shining and hopeful, the Little Star of our
unimaginable confluence of dark and scary stories. He was our happy
Or so we believed, I believed.
It was not to be.
We spent two months in blissful ignorance, trying to accept - to come
to terms - with all that had happened, to learn to heal. We spent
another 2 months in willful denial – me more than anyone else – before
Wyatt ended up at the Janeway Children’s Hospital in St. John’s again.
His home for the first three weeks of his life once again became his
home. Again, we found ourselves sitting by, in that same twilight of
powerless uncertainty, able to do nothing but watch as he fought for his
life under the dedicated, devoted care of his expert medical team.
It is strange to use the word brave for one so little, so young, but it
is one of the words that everyone had for Wyatt. Throughout all his
struggles, his bright, ever-present smile captivated and buoyed the
hearts of everyone who met him. His medical team, hospital staff,
volunteers and visitors all commented on his strength, his joyous
perseverance and the hope they had for him.
It was a hope we all
shared but Wyatt, our Little Star, was sicker than anyone knew. On
December 17th 2012, a week before Christmas, after 33 days at the
Janeway, he passed away. He was six months old.
Star’s light had burned out, our happy ending gone. Our family, near
and far, was shattered, and our community mourned with us, as did his
Janeway team. For such a little boy, in such a short time, he had
touched many lives and found a home in many hearts.
weeks and months following were a blur of grief-stricken survival.
Putting one foot in front of the other, doing the bare minimum needed to
get by, to get our older twin boys through, to figure out what life was
supposed to be now.
In June of 2013, Yvonne and I were watching
the Janeway Telethon. It was an emotional experience. The Janeway
would always be a part of us from now on, and the Telethon had a very
special association for us. Wyatt’s first days at the Janeway had been
during the running of the 2012 Telethon, when it had still been held at
the hospital itself. It was running when Yvonne first arrived from
Corner Brook after Wyatt had been air lifted to St. John’s. During her
first visit to see him, we passed through the backstage area to get to
the elevator that would take us to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
We sat and we watched. We saw children and families going through
ordeals like we, ourselves, had. We saw people celebrate the wonders
that the Janeway had worked, and others return to remember those
children that they had lost. We felt for all of them and we felt our
own loss even more.
Wyatt had been with us for such a short time.
The pain of his absence was unbearable and it was matched by the
rapid-growing fear that, outside our immediate family, he would be
We needed something. A way to remember him, to help
others remember that he was here. He was ours and he was real and he
made an immeasurable impact on our lives. We needed something to do
with all that love and energy that was supposed to be his.
then that we decided that we had to do something. A project of some
sort for the Janeway. An effort, in honour and memory of Wyatt, that
could help other children receive the same excellence in care, the same
gentle thoughtfulness and compassion that he did. That other families
could be afforded the same hope we had, and maybe, just maybe, a better
That’s where it all started. That spark was all we
needed. The idea came together quickly, from his story, our
circumstances and one of our own traditions.
Every year, Yvonne
and I bought a special ornament for our Christmas tree and marked it
with the year. It was always something significant for us for that
year, with elements, shapes and symbols that meant something to us.
Wyatt – our Little Star – had passed so close to Christmas that the
choice was clear. A Christmas ornament that included stars and other
components that spoke to his story. Something that could be a
fundraiser for the Janeway and a tangible memorial to Wyatt.
From there, the Wyatt’s Stars project was born. Not a one time effort –
our grief, our love, needed more than that. We settled on a 5-year
project. A plan for a series of five ornaments, all based around the
same elements, but growing and changing each year, just as Wyatt would
The main elements of the ornaments were an easy choice. Each of them special to us and steeped in meaning:
- Teddy Bears: A source of comfort for children and a symbol closely associated with the Janeway.
- Angel Wings: A memorial to our angel children who could not stay with
us longer and a tribute to the medical angels – doctors, nurses and
medical teams – who work with such tireless compassion to care for our
- Stars: Wyatt was our Little Star, and stars
represent hope and guidance – both for medical teams and families, when
children are sick. Stars are also associated with Christmas, so close
to when he passed. Each year the ornament would also feature an
additional star, one for his age at each year of the project.
- The project name and year would be featured on each ornament, meaning his name would carry on.
With the elements chosen, we began working on the designs and looking
for a material and means of production. With Yvonne and I working
together, the designs came together quickly. For production, we turned
to our own past again. For our wedding, we had obtained a number of
pewter pieces – glassware with emblems, jewelry, etc. – and the
workmanship was exquisite. Pewter was durable and beautiful, and we’d
heard of series of pewter ornaments being commissioned.
researched the company that our pewter items had come from – Aitken’s
Pewter – and the final piece of the project fell into place. Aitken’s
Pewter was a family-owned and operated company in Atlantic Canada – New
Brunswick – and right there, on their website, was a brochure detailing a
fundraising program they offered. We reached out to them and were
contacted by the company owner, Martin Aitken.
From those initial
calls, through the design rendering process, packaging, production and
all the other details – big and small – the Wyatt’s Stars pewter
ornament series came to life.
In those early days, we couldn’t
possibly have known where the project would take us. How successful the
project would be, all of the people we would meet, the volunteers, the
supporters, the personal and heartfelt stories from people with their
own connections to the Janeway or who were touched by his story.
With the final year of the project upon us, it is almost unbelievable
that we have come this far. That the years have slipped by so quickly
and so much has happened. We’ve raised over $30,000 for the Janeway
Cardiology department, and we’re hoping for a very successful final
year. We’ve received so much support and met so many people, friends
and acquaintances that will stay with us long years after the project
has ended. Wyatt’s name, and the project, will be featured on a new
Wall of Miracles at the Janeway recognizing lifetime donations over
$25,000. His name and thousands of stars in his memory hang on
Christmas trees every year, including our own, and even in windows, cars
and other places throughout the whole year.
It is humbling,
heart wrenching and comforting, all at the same time, to know that long
after the project itself has ended, Wyatt’s story and a legacy of hope
and help for others in his name will continue on.
JKL – October 2017
This is such a wonderful project, and a beautiful tribute to your son, Wyatt. Yvonne and Jimmy, you are to be commended for your dedication to the Janeway, and for raising much-needed funds for the Pediatric Cardiology department. Your son will never be forgotten, for he lives on in the hearts of many.
Supplies of the final ornament in the series are limited, so please be sure to
get yours! Email email@example.com to arrange for mail order. Wyatt's Stars will be available at the
at the Jack Byrne Arena from December 1-3. They will also have a small number of previous years ornaments, if you
are looking to complete the set! All proceeds go to the Janeway.