Tyler Cepkauskas' colorful design includes words like "survivor," "hope" and "courage"

By Rachel DeSantis
June 04, 2020 05:18 PM
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Starlight Children's Foundation

Tyler Cepkauskas saw the way he was able to lift up his younger sister with words of encouragement each time she was hospitalized for a congenital heart defect.

The 7-year-old would remind her of her strength and the support she had at home — and now, thanks to Tyler, hundreds of other young patients will have the chance to wear those words on a hospital gown, and remind themselves of their power daily.

Tyler created the winning design for this year’s Design-A-Gown contest from the Starlight Children’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to delivering “happiness to seriously ill kids,” according to its website.

His colorful pattern was inspired by the reminders he likes to give his 4-year-old sister Emily, and incorporates words like “survivor” and “hope.”

“All these words are words I would say to her when she was sick. I would say, ‘Emily, remember to have courage, strength and hope. Remember you are a fighter and a survivor and most of all, remember you are loved,” Tyler said in a statement.

Emily has Down syndrome and has had to undergo three open heart surgeries due to an atrioventricular canal defect, Good Morning America reported.

The siblings’ mom, Laurie Cepkauskas of Homer Glen, Illinois, told the outlet the two are “hashtag sibling goals,” and are incredibly close.

“Thinking about it makes me cry because whenever [Emily] would go in [to the hospital], he didn’t know if she would come back,” Cepkauskas said. “If it’s on her gown, she’ll always remember when big brother is not with her.”

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Tyler’s winning design was inspired by the question, “What makes you happy?” and was chosen as the winner from about 1,000 other submissions.

It will soon be seen on Starlight Hospital Gowns distributed to children’s hospitals and healthcare facilities across the country.

“The support of the community quite honestly has been such an unexpected blessing. Many have expressed how this has been such an exciting and fun distraction from all the scary stuff going on,” Cepkauskas said in a statement. “Tyler has received numerous emails and messages from classmates and teachers, showing their support. It’s been a lot of fun for him.”