JUNE 10, 2020 UPDATE: WGN has learned Starlight Children’s Foundation will no longer produce this gown after racist comments made by the child’s mother surfaced online. Here is the full statement:
“This morning, we were made aware of racist comments made by the mother of our 2020 Design-A-Gown contest winner who is unaffiliated with Starlight in any other manner.
“We are disgusted by her comments and have immediately cut all association with her. We will not be producing her family’s gown design.
“Starlight is committed to serving families of all races and ethnicities. Racist words like hers do not reflect our values. We will never tolerate racism or anti-blackness.”-Starlight Children’s Foundation
HOMER GLEN, Ill. — While scientists are in overdrive to develop better hospital protocols amid the pandemic, a little boy came up with a design of his own, in honor of his sister who spends a great deal of time in the hospital.
Tyler and Emily Cepkauskas are best friends.
“Everything he does in life, he does with his sister on his heart,” mother Laurie Cepkauskas said. “And it’s never just ‘Tyler.’ It’s always ‘Tyler and Emily.’ They are a package deal.”
By his little sister’s side through her three open heart surgeries, Tyler, whose family lives in Homer Glen, always has the right words.
“Tyler had to grow up a lot quicker than most kids,” Cepkauskas said. “He was 2-and-a-half and had to adapt to being a special needs brother. The first three years of her life was being in and out of the ICU with our longest stretch being four months. So he’s no stranger to the hospital setting.”
So when Cepkauskas heard about the Starlight Children’s Foundation “Design a Hospital Gown” contest, she encouraged her son to enter.
“Tyler loves to draw and create things so he immediately jumped in and started drawing,” Cepkauskas said. “The only thing he asked me was how to spell some words. And once he had that he kind of took off.”
His brightly colored concept features his special message for Emily, the words brave, courage, hope, heart, fighter, survivor, strength and love.
“So she can remember even when I wasn’t there,” he said.
“These are words that he would always say to her. ‘Emily be brave and be strong. You are a fighter and I love you,’” Cepkauskas said. “And that’s where the inspiration came from.”
On Wednesday, Tyler learned his hospital gown was chosen as the winning design.
The gown will be distributed to hundreds of patients. Starlight Children’s Foundation’s mission is to provide comfortable and colorful clothing to kids in the hospital.