SCARBOROUGH, Maine — The "Ouchie Box" was born as a way to keep kids and teens excited about visiting it after a medical procedure, treatment, or any follow-up at the Maine Children’s Cancer Program. It's a way for them to have something to look forward to.
According to MaineHealth, the Maine Children's Cancer Program (MCCP) is the pediatric oncology program at Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center.
Libby Rulman was diagnosed with cancer when she was just two years old. For the past six years, Libby and her family have been giving back to the hospital that saved her daughter's life by keeping the "Ouchie Box" full of gifts for kids and teens to choose from.
In early December, Libby's family goes one-by-one to 16 locations to drop off boxes in hopes of getting toy donations to keep the "Ouchie Box" filled up throughout the year.
"And it's just grown every single year," Chris Rulman, Libby's father, said.
"You donate toys and they go to kids who have cancer, go to chemo, stuff like that," Libby expressed.
"Seven years ago, Libby was diagnosed with Langerhans cell histiocytosis at the age of two, she had a tumor on her orbital bone on her eye," Sarah Rulman, Libby's mother, explained.
Libby has been cancer free for almost six years now. She received all her treatments and currently gets her follow-ups done at the Maine Children's Cancer Program's wing at Maine Medical Center in Scarborough.
For the past six years now, the Rulman family takes the time to give back by bringing smiles to kids through gifts they can pick and choose out of the "Ouchie Box."
"We know what we went through and we want to make it as easy as possible for other parents," Chris Rulman said. "It gives them something to look forward to after their treatment, they can select anything they want out of there."
Sarah Rulman said the idea of giving back started when opening up an almost empty "Ouchie Box."
"Her very last chemo treatment, my husband and I brought her to the box, and we opened it up and it was pretty much empty, so we were like, 'This is not ok,' not just for her, but for any kiddo," Sarah Rulman said.
The first location that had a toy drive box was Amigos Restaurant in Portland.
"I approached my boss here at Amigos, and he was like, 'Absolutely, let's have a box here,'" Sarah Rulman explained.
Now, the effort has expanded to 16 locations that are also taking cash donations.
All of the cash donations will be turned into gift cards to help families with any gas, groceries, or other expenses if needed.
"Some families don't have a lot of money because they can't do a job because [their] kid is going through chemo treatment, so when they get a toy it feels great for them," Libby said.
Deirdre Hogan, a pediatric oncology and hematology social worker at Maine Children’s Cancer Program, is Libby's clinical social worker. Hogan said about 15 to 18 kids and teens visit the cancer program daily.
"We ask because of COVID[-19], this is the hard part, but kids usually do a great job with a little direction, we just ask them to look with their eyes and what we will do is we will kind of show them the options, which are always changing," Hogan said.
Hogan said many times kids can end up spending hours at an appointment.
"Usually when kids come here with their families, they have to spend a lot of time here. Sometimes they are getting lengthy infusions for chemotherapy, or they are coming in for injections, things like that, and so it's difficult to be here," Hogan said.
Just knowing they have a reward or a light at the end of a dark tunnel for some—such as the "Ouchie Box"—makes it a little less difficult.
"Sometimes there's a lot to look through and we just wanted to make sure that's always the case," Sarah Rulman said.
For the past few years, tons of donations have kept kids and teens excited to choose from the "Ouchie Box."
"For me, I do it for Libby, but I do it for all the kids that come after her," Sarah Rulman said.
Here is a list of the 16 places in Maine that accept donations for "Ouchie Boxes":
- Amigos Mexican Restaurant in Portland.
- The Moose Sports Bar in Falmouth.
- Brookside Food and Beverage in Westbrook.
- Wessie's Den in Westbrook.
- Ruski's Tavern in Portland.
- Rave X Motorsports in South Portland.
- Drouin Dance Center in Westbrook.
- Graybar Electric in Portland.
- Harvey Performance Company in Gorham.
- Starbucks in Saco.
- Independent Restaurant Supply in Portland.
- Riverview Physical Therapy in Windham.
- Manchester School in Windham.
- Scott's Disposal Service in Windham.
- Beacon Environmental Consultants, LLC in Windham.
- The Pizza Villa in Portland.
The deadline to drop off a toy or make a cash donation at any of the 16 locations above is Dec. 20.
Libby and her mother, Sarah, will then go to all of the locations, pick up the donations, and on Dec. 23, take them to the Maine Children's Cancer Program to brighten up the days of kids and teens undergoing treatment.