November 4, 2016
By Jackie Dunham
A wayward red helium balloon has become a symbol of hope for one family coping with cancer.
Six-year-old Liam Cuttle was diagnosed with stage four, high-risk neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer, just before his fourth birthday. He was deemed cancer-free last January but his family continues to raise money for cancer research through their charity called Liam’s Brigade.
On Sunday, the family held a fundraising event filled with costumes and red helium balloons in their hometown of Oakville, Ont. During the festivities, one of the balloons became loose and accidentally floated away. The family didn’t think anything of the missing balloon until they were contacted by a stranger from a place close to their hearts.
That place was Saint John, N.B. where Violet Watson found the red helium balloon in her backyard on Monday. The discovery piqued her curiosity because it had the text “Liam’s Brigade” printed on the front. She told CTV Atlantic on Thursday that she looked up the balloon’s origins online when she arrived at work on Monday.
“All of my hits kept saying Oakville, Ont. and I was like, ‘There’s no way that this came from Oakville,” Watson said.
The balloon’s long-distance adventure and seemingly random destination took the Cuttle family by surprise. Andrew Cuttle, Liam’s dad, was born in Saint John and Liam’s grandmother, Suzanne Cuttle, was born and raised in the city. She was also buried there in April after her battle with cancer.
“My mom was diagnosed two months after Liam with terminal cancer,” Andrew Cuttle told CTV Toronto on Thursday. “She sought treatment to set an example for Liam and to see him through treatment.”
The Cuttle family believes the balloon’s last stop is a sign of something meaningful.
“When somebody dies you’re looking for a sign,” Andrew Cuttle said. “We have strong faith and believe that she’s (Suzanne) in a good place, but you’re always looking for a sign and this is the first one I’ve got and it’s pretty loud and clear.”
Watson agreed the balloon’s journey was more than a coincidence.
“I’m a total believer in it,” Watson said. “It’s a sign right here.”
Watson met with Liam’s grandfather, Jim Cuttle, on Thursday in Saint John after Andrew emailed him about the event. Jim Cuttle expressed his shock that a helium balloon could have travelled that far only to wind up in that particular city.
“Across Lake Ontario and all the way down here and out of all the places in New Brunswick it could have landed,” he said.
Jim Cuttle offered to return the balloon back to the family in Oakville, but his grandson Liam has other plans for it. The little boy said he wants the balloon to stay with his grandma in Saint John.
With a report from CTV Atlantic and CTV Toronto