It all happened one night when Hans Sy, who was watching the TV with the late Henry Sy, Sr., saw the philanthropist and beauty guru Ricky Reyes crying and pleading the government to stop an eviction proceeding on the news.
Reyes’s Child Haus, a temporary home for cancer-stricken kids, was on the verge of getting evicted from the property where it was built. Little did Hans know that his curiosity as to why Mother Ricky was crying on TV would be the start of something that will change his life forever.
“When he explained the incident, I myself felt that children should not suffer like this, and then I told Ricky, ‘Can you show me where you moved them temporarily?’, when I went to the house it was so crowded and felt [that] this is not the right way. So, immediately I decided to buy a house for them,” Hans recounted.
After just a few months, Hans handed the keys of the house he bought in Quezon City to Mother Ricky. This served as a halfway house for cancer-stricken kids and their parents for more than three years. But as the need for a bigger and better shelter emerged, Hans did not hesitate to lend a helping hand to them.
Hans, who is the chairman of executive committee of SM Prime, bought a piece of land near the Philippine General Hospital and built a seven-storey building. And this building, which he bought and built using his own money, was donated to child Haus as their permanent home during his 60th birthday.
“I tell myself at that age they don’t understand why they’re sick, why they can’t act like a normal kid, it really touched my heart and that’s why I’m all out to support them,” Hans added.
His philanthropic work with young cancer patients didn’t stop there. He would always go beyond his means to help fund Child Haus, often asking his friends to donate. Because of his numerous efforts to support the shelter, everyone at Child Haus treated him as part of the family, fondly calling him Kuya Hans every time he would go there and celebrate his birthday with them. However this year, as the COVID-19 looms ominously, Hans chose to forego his celebration, prioritizing the safety of everyone instead.
But to his surprise, Child Haus director Mother Ricky decided to throw Kuya Hans a small and physically distanced celebration during the shelter’s 17th founding anniversary to thank him for all his hard work. Though he was hesitant to do it, Hans saw that this is an opportunity for him to advocate something that is very close to his heart.
Continuing to champion the cause of cancer-stricken kids even during a pandemic
Mother Ricky’s Child Haus has been helping cancer-stricken kids for 17 years. With the support of generous donors like Hans and Volunteers, the shelter was able to open its doors to more than 16,000 to 17,000 kids.
Everyday, the shelter caters to more than a hundred kids, providing for their needs and assisting them in their medications. But at the onset of the enhanced Community Quarantine, the halfway house was put in a situation that nobody was prepared for.
For the hundred kids that were left in the shelter, Child Haus would call their doctors to coordinate their treatment. Hans as well as the other donors provided shuttle services for the kids to safely transport them where their doctors are so they can receive the needed treatment. And because cancer-stricken kids are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, Mother Ricky had to ensure that nobody would acquire the dreaded disease by strictly implementing safety measures.
“Ang bata at ang kaniyang nanay ay hindi tatangapin sa Child Haus kung walang certification ang doctor niya na yung bata ay hindi dumaan sa lugar na may mga ginagamot na COVID. Kuya Hans at sa lahat ng mga donor namin, we’re glad to say in [the] time of pandemic, the most vulnerable children who have cancer, nobody had perished from COVID-19,” said Mother Ricky in his speech during the event.
Dreaming big for the kids and Humanity
In the same event, Hans launched a program to acknowledge the heroes of the shelter called “One Dream for Humanity. The program establishes the core organization of the benefactors, volunteers, and donors.
“Donors and volunteers will be called Dream Keepers… Ang mga dream keepers ay talagang hindi bumibitaw. Sila ‘yung mga taong all throughout the time ay nandon,” said Mother Ricky.
A total of 20 individuals and organizations, who served donors and volunteers for Child Haus throughout its 17-year existence, were recognized during the event. Among the dream keepers acknowledged were the Metro Manila Mayors Spouses Foundation Inc., Feed the Hungry Foundation, Rotary Club of Salcedo, Hi-Precision Diagnostic Center, and the Santisimo Rosario Chorale Group.
As for Hans who was beaming in happiness as the kids virtually greeted him on his birthday, he wanted to remind the kids of ChildHuas about keeping on optimistic outlook in life, because even though life has many adversities, there is always a reason to be positive.
“What is best is to be strong, be positive, and look forward to life,” he concluded.
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