Patient Stories

Henry's Red Tricycle

February 22, 2022

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On Feb. 10, 2011, a day after Henry Friedler’s first birthday, his family found out he was diagnosed with infant leukemia, a rare and aggressive cancer. After discovering Henry's diagnosis, the family was uncertain if Henry would survive the first night and the long journey ahead. Henry's family spent most of the following year in the hospital with him. 

During the second year, Henry and his family were fortunate to have chemotherapy done at home rather than at the hospital. However, the process was still very intense, as Henry was treated with high-dose chemotherapy. On Henry's third birthday, his family celebrated because he was in remission. But later that year, Henry got sick again, and his family spent weeks and months trying to figure out what was wrong. Finally, they learned that although the two years of chemotherapy had cured his cancer, it unfortunately ruined his immune system. This forced Henry and his family to spend more time in the hospital. Henry was getting sicker. In September 2013, the family placed Henry on hospice. On Dec. 20, 2013, Henry passed away in his mother's arms at home. Henry was less than two months shy of his fourth birthday.

"We are forever thankful for the care he received at Randall Children's Hospital,” says Marla Friedler, Henry's mother and nursing administration supervisor for Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. “Not only did they care for Henry, but they also provided support for myself, my husband and our older son, Owen." 

Marla and her family wanted to find the best way to give back to Randall Children's Hospital, and toys felt like the best option. Henry and Owen would receive toys regularly during hospital stays or after long days at the clinic. These toys, some small, some big, would bring so much joy to them. A Hot Wheels car would zoom on the side rails; Thomas the Tank Engine would ride along the windowsill. 

"As a parent these toys allowed our kids to play and feel what it was like to be a kid, while they were dealing with things kids shouldn't have to go through,” says Marla. “We would laugh and play and make the hospital as 'normal' as we could." 

Six months after Henry passed away, the family held their first toy drive. With the help of a friend, they created Red Tricycle Brigade. The name referred to Henry’s love of riding his tricycle. When he passed away, a picture of an empty tricycle became the photo associated with him on Facebook. 

The Red Tricycle Brigade's mission is to spread kindness and joy. Over the years, the group has carried out random acts of kindness and monthly activities. Still, the one big thing they do every year is hold a toy drive. The toys are donated to Randall Children's Hospital every year on February 9, which is Henry's birthday. The group donated 4,601 toys this year, bringing their nine-year total to more than 26,000 toys. That's a lot of happy kids!

"Henry taught me the importance of living life to the fullest,” says Marla. “Play when you feel good. Laugh often. Cry when you need to. Life is short, so we live it fully. To be able to give back, to spread joy and smiles to kids' faces helps keep Henry's memory alive." 

What started with donations from family and friends has now blossomed into a mission that motivates people who never knew Henry to support the group and contribute in some way. 

"Each year, our support grows,” says Marla. “As a mom, it means the world to me that people still remember Henry. He had a short life, but it changed my world. Being his mom has been my biggest honor, and our toy drive is one of my greatest accomplishments."

Randall Children’s Hospital is grateful for the endless support Red Tricycle Brigade continues to show the hospital and for the opportunity to have been able to know and care for Henry and his family.
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