A Nunavut boy battling a rare illness enjoyed a frantic but fun scramble through a Winnipeg toy store on Thursday morning, grabbing as many toys as he could in three minutes.
Victor Uluadluak, 8, said he was "more than [the] happiest kid in the world" after collecting almost $2,300 worth of merchandise — including Nerf guns, Nintendo Wii U video games, a Star Wars light sabre and a Hot Wheels race car set — at the Toys R Us store on Pembina Highway early Thursday morning.
The three-minute shopping spree was organized by Starlight Children's Foundation Canada. The charity selected him and six other young patients across the country as part of a contest aimed at giving children with serious illnesses something to look forward to enjoying while they're undergoing medical care.
"Oh, this is just fantastic. It's absolutely amazing," said Jackie Massey, Victor's foster mother.
"He is so happy. He was counting down the sleeps to come and, I mean, I can't believe all the things that he grabbed."
Victor is from Whale Cove, a remote hamlet 1,400 kilometres north of Winnipeg in Nunavut's Kivalliq region.
He was diagnosed two years ago with severe aplastic anemia, a rare and potentially life-threatening condition in which his body's bone marrow does not produce enough new blood cells.
Aplastic anemia generally leaves patients feeling fatigued and can cause heart problems, frequent infections and uncontrolled bleeding.
Victor is currently living with Massey and her family in Winnipeg while he undergoes treatment.
"He's far, far from home," said Jessica Lizotte, a child life specialist with the Winnipeg Children's Hospital who works with Victor.
"He's really just getting this opportunity to completely distract himself, and he'll have lots of stories to share when he returns to the hospital and to his home."
Needs a kidney transplant
Extreme complications from a bone marrow transplant Victor had to address the aplastic anemia resulted in his kidneys failing, so he now needs a kidney transplant.
In the meantime, he is on hemodialysis six days a week. Massey said Victor has to undergo dialysis while he waits to become strong enough for a transplant.
"I think it's going to really help him because he's on dialysis, like, for three, 3½ hours a day, so he'll be able to play with most of these things that he picked out today," she said.
"It's going to make the dialysis time go a little bit faster, for sure."
When asked what he will play with first, Victor said he plans to play Pikmin 3 on the Wii U.
Similar toy dash events were held in four other cities on Thursday.