When 6-year-old Noah Wilson was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, in April, his parents knew the way to bring a smile to his face: superhero bandages.
“Early on in the process, he would get shots every night in his leg,” Noah’s father Scott Wilson, 34, tells PEOPLE. “He would have six or seven bandages, three or four on each leg.”
Though a simple gesture, the colorful bandages (his favorites are Superman and the Incredible Hulk) meant the world to Noah, who is being treated at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.
“It’s like each time I get one, it’s a sign I’m done with it,” Noah tells PEOPLE of his determination to beat the disease.
“In his eyes, a bandage means that he just had a success,” Scott says. “This is his reward.”
So when Noah was in the hospital and asked a nurse for a superhero bandage following a chemotherapy treatment three months ago, he was surprised – and frustrated – to learn the hospital only carried plain ones.
Noah decided to do something about it.
“I want to collect cool ones for Children’s Mercy because the ones they have now are boring,” he told his father, “and kids don’t like boring ones.”
What began with a simple, self-made sign on his family’s Olathe, Kansas, doorstep asking for bandage donations turned into Noah’s Bandage Project, which, through Facebook shares and media coverage, has collected more than 3,200 boxes of colorful, patterned bandages from supporters around the country.
“He gets excited every time I come home with a package,” says Scott, a telecommunications manager.
His favorite part is getting to label each box by hand, “With love from Team Noah Wilson.” He delivers them to Children’s Mercy each week with the help of his mother, Deb, 35.
“It’s very important to him to see his friends at the hospital have what he has,” she says. “They run down the hallways and tell their friends.”
Laurie Morgado, whose 6-year-old son Ian was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at age 4 and is a patient at Children’s Mercy, said he was “beyond thrilled” to receive a box of bandages featuring Minion, a character from Despicable Me
“It makes him feel special,” says the Leavenworth, Kansas, stay-at-home mom, who, along with other families, gets the bandages from tables at nursing stations.
“These children go through so much, and it seems trivial to some,” says Morgado, 42, “but it’s very important to him to show it off to his family and friends.”
Noah’s project has been so successful the hospital is planning to start ordering colorful bandages itself.
“When we first found out about this, it really got us thinking, ‘Why aren’t we already doing this?’ ” says Melissa Stover, 39, who works in Children’s Mercy’s Child Life department.
She says “the kids just light up” when they see them.
“They just can’t wait to put them on,” she says. “It’s amazing what a little box of bandages will do.”
Despite facing another 20 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation, Noah plans to keep his movement going – with the help of his family.
“We’re very proud of him,” Scott says. “Through this suffering that he’s going through came this precious idea that is now helping so many others.”
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