Foundation Partners with United Luv to Provide iPads for Benefis Patients
Ryan Eaton dreamed of the day he could hand an iPad to a cancer patient to help them pass the time. He and his younger brother, Dallas, had started a T-shirt business called United Luv and wanted to direct a portion of their proceeds to buying iPads to give to hospitals.
During Ryan’s battle with synovial sarcoma, he had seen too many people sitting alone through their long cancer treatments. He had seen too many children full of fear, clinging to their parents. He knew an iPad could make a difference, help adults connect with family and friends on Skype and Facebook or help children by giving them games to play. He knew because his own iPad had helped him during those long days and nights.
“In the middle of the night, Ryan would turn on Pandora; there were some Christian songs he really liked,” said his dad, Sheldon. “He just wanted to zone out of what he was going through.”
Sadly, Ryan passed away before his dream came true. After a 14-month battle with his rare cancer, he died in February at age 26. His family has been donating iPads to hospitals across Montana in his memory ever since.
Early in December, Sheldon and Vicki Eaton of Billings and Dallas Eaton of Helena brought a true taste of Christmas to the Benefis Sletten Cancer Institute. The family donated nine brand new iPads for cancer patients to use during their treatments. The Benefis Foundation used its Greatest Need fund to match the donation, giving Benefis a total of 18 iPads for patients to use.
“There was a young girl in one of the hospitals who was going to be there for six months,” said Sheldon. “It’s so nice for her and the other patients to have that distraction. All the different things you can do with an iPad – it’s an amazing tool as far as taking your mind off of things.”
He also spoke of another little girl they met in the hospital. She was only 3 years old but knew exactly how to run her little finger across the screen and bring the iPad to life.
The magic of an iPad, however, is not just for children. It gives adults an opportunity to stay connected with loved ones near and far, maybe share face time while having infusions. Some people may just want to surf the Internet or watch YouTube videos or movies. Or, like Ryan, listen to music any time of the day or night.
“Chemotherapy treatments require patients to spend extended periods of time at our center,” said Joe LoDuca, Chief Administrative Officer at the Sletten Cancer Institute. “Patients can be facing treatments lasting anywhere from one to eight hours. Being able to provide iPads for them to use will make a tremendous difference in helping them pass the time and improving their experience.”
The Eatons also have given iPads to hospitals in Billings, Helena and Missoula, with each hospital’s foundation matching their donation. They are nearing 130 iPads and plan to “keep going,” eventually venturing out of state.
“Each time, before we come to another hospital, I say, ‘I can’t do this again; we’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals,” said Vicki Eaton. “But afterward, we always feel really good. We know what it’s like because we’ve been there.
“And we feel like Ryan’s smiling from above and saying, ‘Thank you guys.’”