Top StoriesOttawa Boy Battling Leukemia Gets Chance at Dream Toy Dash

Ottawa Boy Battling Leukemia Gets Chance at Dream Toy Dash

Ottawa Boy Battling Leukemia Gets Chance at Dream Toy Dash

Photos by Emily Cordonier


There was no hiding the excitement on the face of Gabriel Munante when he arrived just as the sun was rising, at the Toys “R” Us location in Orleans. The 11-year-old Ottawa boy is one of eight Canadian children who was randomly selected to receive a 3-minute toy shopping spree thanks to the work of the Starlight Children’s Foundation.

Gabriel was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of six, and now, nearly six years later, he has been in remission for two years. For a large part of his childhood, Gabriel has had to endure countless hospital stays, and even times of complete isolation during treatment. As a result, Gabriel missed out on many opportunities to enjoy being just a kid. But, through a partnership between the Starlight Children’s Foundation and Toys “R” Us Canada, Gabriel was given the chance to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience and create some much-needed memories outside of the hospital.

“Starlight has been incredible. They really put themselves in the kids shoes and try and relieve them from whatever stress they are going for. And make it easier on the families,” says Patricia Munante, Gabriel’s mother.

Gabriel did his homework. He visited the store three times ahead of the big day to scope out what he wanted and where it was located. Gabriel made a detailed map and plan of attack, and he made sure he and his parents were all wearing running shoes.  “It’s really amazing. Right away as soon as I got the call, I knew I was going to go straight to the Lego section, because that’s what I love doing at home.”

When the 3-minute timer started, Gabriel and his parents were off and running. As expected, they headed straight for the Lego, Lego, and more Lego before picking up some electronics and family games. The Munante family made the most of their 3-minute window to fill multiple shopping carts with as many free toys as possible. Gabriel, who is a huge Ottawa Senators fan was also aided by the Sens mascot “Sparty”. Sparty helped push a cart and added some Senators gear and merchandise to the haul.

When time was up, Gabriel had filled an impressive four shopping carts. Everyone witnessing the dash, including the Toys “R” Us workers who volunteered their time for the event, had huge smiles on their faces. It was an unforgettable moment, particularly for Gabriel’s parents who were overjoyed watching their son’s joy and excitement.

Gabriel’s mother is just grateful that it looks like the worst is over. “He’s doing well. He’s in remission, we have our monthly visits to CHEO to make sure things are on track, but things are looking good.”

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