Hockey artist raises funds after stepdaughter diagnosed with cancer

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TORONTO - Murray Henderson has created numerous paintings over the years that combined his passion for hockey and aiding charities, including the NHL's Hockey Fights Cancer campaign.

But this time, it's highly personal. His 15-year-old stepdaughter, Courtney Morrison, was rushed to Toronto from Peterborough, Ont., by ambulance in February with Hodgkin's lymphoma.

She went through a gruelling time on the operating table with only a local anesthetic as tests were conducted. She couldn't have a general anesthetic because they'd found a mass in a tricky spot on the heart and above the breathing tube, Henderson said.

"What she's gone through is just absolute terror," he said, describing the procedures at the Hospital for Sick Children that included a lumbar puncture and removal of a lymph node.

"And all this in two hours at the same time in an operating room awake."

Now, the Grade 10 student is taking time off school as she undergoes chemotherapy until about August, to be followed by radiation, he said.

The family initially spent 15 days at the hospital and Henderson said "it just opened my eyes to what SickKids really is all about. And the staff and everybody was so amazing with Courtney."

He approached SickKids Foundation with the idea of selling signed prints of two paintings, with half the proceeds going to the hospital and the other half to help families with children fighting cancer, including his own.

One painting shows little kids wearing hockey uniforms, and the other depicts a girl trying on her dad's hockey skate.

"The one with the little girl in front of the fireplace is kind of the main focus, because I call it 'Bright Future,"' he said.

Both paintings include NHL-licensed garb, so Henderson had to get league permission.

"I have some contacts in New York City in the NHL office and I basically got in touch with them and told them my story, and asked them if it would be all right if I could use this print with the little kids in the original six NHL jerseys and they said 'yes."'

The prints will sell on his website for $100 each plus taxes and shipping and handling, or $175 for two, and Henderson doesn't plan to sell more than 2,008 of each one, he said.

"We're very excited that Murray approached us and wants to do this with us, and a portion of proceeds coming to us, as well as he's donating a number of prints that we're able to auction off," said Wil MacKenzie, who's involved in corporate partnerships at the SickKids Foundation.

Henderson is a travelling salesman in addition to being an artist, but said he hasn't been able to drive since he was left with neck and upper-back injuries after a head-on collision in December.

He said costs - especially for travel and medication - can add up quickly when a family has someone battling cancer. And smaller items contribute to the tally too.

"Like wigs," he said. "The lowest-priced wig we could find was $550; it can go all the way up to $5,000-$6,000 for a wig."

"My wife and I are lucky enough to have health benefits, but two of the pills are $6,500 for a 15-day cycle, and we get 90 per cent coverage. So when you take 10 per cent you're still having to pay quite a chunk of money out for pills."

"There are a lot of people out there that have absolutely nothing. I just can't fathom what they have to go through."

Courtney, who's working on two high-school credits at home as she undergoes treatment, is pleased with her stepdad's efforts.

"I think any help that families can get for dealing with their child going through cancer is great," she said.

Henderson said a group of Courtney's friends shaved their heads to show support for her.

At one point, he said she was getting upset because rumours were flying at her high school about what was wrong with her.

Courtney said she started a Facebook group to take questions from friends and classmates, and so that people would have the "right" story.

And the reaction?

"Basically, just got a lot of support," said Courtney. "Everyone, they're just really supportive, and saying that they're there for me."


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