Notifications

Christmas cards from across Canada lift spirits of Winnipeg boy with fatal disease

People across the country are pitching in to make the holiday season a little brighter for a 10-year-old Winnipeg boy.

Sheldon Steuart, 10, was diagnosed with Batten disease earlier this year

Sheldon Steuart, seated, is receiving Christmas cards from across Canada. Luke Zarn, left, Jody Zarn, Eve Courchene, Isabella Steuart and Cole Steuart, right, say it makes Sheldon happy to get the cards. (Kelly Malone/CBC)

People across the country are pitching in to make the holiday season a little brighter for a Winnipeg boy.

Sheldon Steuart, 10, has Batten disease — a rare, inherited disorder that impacts the nervous system and is often fatal in the late teens or early 20s. Currently, there is no cure. His family and an organization that helps kids with the disease have put out a call across the country to send the boy Christmas cards.

"Just [to see] Sheldon happy," Sheldon's mom, Eve Courchene, told CBC Radio's Weekend Morning Show.

Courchene said the diagnosis earlier this year completely changed Sheldon's life.

"He went from one weekend going sledding, going crazy, running around to the next weekend every time he'd walk he'd fall. He couldn't climb up the stairs properly. He was unbalanced," she said.

An active and talkative kid, Sheldon now needs help walking around and he loses more of his speech every day, Courchene said.
Sheldon Steuart, 10, was diagnosed with Batten disease earlier this year. (Eve Courchene)

"I'm dealing with it as best I can," she said.

When Jody Zarn, director of Laps 4 Life, a Batten disease fundraiser and organization that supports families, learned about Sheldon, she reached out to his family. She learned that Sheldon was feeling really lonely.

"To me that's just a crime, especially at Christmas," she said. "We can't have that."

That's when the Christmas cards came to mind. Zarn put a call out on social media for cards, and the plan initially was to surprise Sheldon and his family. But eventually Courchene found out and thought it was a great idea.
Sheldon's mom, Eve Courchene, opens Christmas cards from across Canada. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

"It's been a really good response. I've been getting messages from people all over the country and in the U.S. and even teachers wanting their students to be involved," Zarn said, adding students at Emerson Elementary School in Winnipeg have already delivered a batch of cards.

While Zarn said sending cards is "just a simple thing," for Sheldon and his family it's been amazing.

"He really likes to feel popular and that will definitely make him feel popular," Courchene said.

Cards can be sent to PO Box 50029, Rivergrove Post Office, Winnipeg MB R2V 1M5.
People across the country are pitching in to make the holiday season a little brighter for a Winnipeg boy. 1:17

With files from Weekend Morning Show and Samantha Samson