It always amazes me to see young people wanting to make a difference in the world and it is empowering to see them make an impact. This rings true to Owen who is already making a difference in his community and his inspiration came from his own family.
Imagine being a parent and told that your child has Leukemia. Sounds like a horrible nightmare, doesn’t it?! The Armstrong family had this happen to them when their nine year old son, Caden, was diagnosed with Leukemia. This family battled and stayed strong together. Now their other son, Owen makes benches and uses the proceeds to help other families travel to get treatment for their child.
We got a chance to chat with Owen and his mother Kirstin who gave us a deeper look at The Nice Bench Co. So grab your tissues and enjoy this inspiring story!
1. How did it all start? How was the idea developed?
“The inspiration for the benches came when Owen built and painted a bench for his little sister, Anikka. His grandparents and auntie loved Anikka’s new bench so much, that Owen was fueled to make more. He built twelve with scrap wood on Christmas Day! Those first bench prototypes were a little rough-looking, but the idea was born.”
2. What type of products does your company do?
“I get some help from a local high school student, named Ryan. He helps me build my nice benches. I have created three lines for these benches, “curious”, “wild” and “happy” – all words my mom uses to describe me! The “curious” line is basically anything I feel like doing, right now I’m really still in to stripes. The “wild” is roughed-up so it looks like it’s been out in the wild (rustic charm) and the “happy” line is solid paint in one of the milk paint colours I have chosen. There’s a big colour palette to choose from.” – Owen
“The step stools are painted using non-toxic, biodegradable, zero VOC milk paint and sealed with 100% natural hemp oil which often comes to us by way of donation from a Canadian company, Homestead House.
Owen has expanded his collection to include custom name plates and growth charts, and his step stools are now morphing into actual three-seater benches. We have some custom orders, with custom sizes for these that we are creating. Very exciting.
Every month, we try something new. Last month, in honour of childhood cancer awareness, we created a solid gold bench – the #gogold bench. This month we are featuring some artists work on the benches and later we will be doing something with Halloween inspired colour treatment.
Owen has some exclusive projects on the go for BRIKA (an online platform showcasing and selling heirloom quality artisan craft) and another: a screen-printed “THRIVE” bench for the ever-inspiring MAX LOVE PROJECT (a non-profit that aims to maximize quality of life and reduce serious health risks for all childhood cancer survivors with fierce foods and whole-body wellness).”
3. With the proceeds from the sales, how does it help families with children who are getting cancer care treatments?
“For every product sold, Owen collects $5-$10 ($5 from the sale of name plates and growth charts, and $10 from every bench) and purchases gas gift cards for childhood cancer families traveling long distances to Sick Kids Hospital for chemotherapy treatment.
One quarter of families of children being treated for cancer lose 40% of their total household income. Over 50% of mothers reported relinquishing their employment to provide care for their child. (Source: Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center)
Loss of income is huge, then add up all the extra hidden costs of medicine, childcare, meals on the road. Takes a toll on the family. Owen is hoping to offset that in the little way he can – by paying for the families to get their child to treatment.”
4. Can you describe what your family went through when your child was diagnosed and getting treatment?
“There are no words. Utter shock. A surreal, out-of-body experience. Our eldest boy, Caden was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of nine. What? Kids don’t get cancer.
It is so cliché to say that our world was turned up-side-down but it truly was. Pure chaos. We had just moved three hours north of the city and were set up to live on an island for the summer when we found out we had to turn around and relocate to be near Sick Kids, in Toronto. We had nowhere to go. A family of five. Thankfully, friends and family (our community/life-support) helped us out in ways that go way above and beyond. An expecting couple gave us their home for the summer, we had meals delivered, activities set up for our other two children, the list goes on-and-on. Incredible. We are beyond thankful for their help, it brings tears to my eyes.
Watching Caden endure years of treatment, lumbar punctures, complications, IVs…gutted me. This nightmare has shaved years off my life. I’m sure of it. Despite it all, I was determined to remain positive and happy and strong for Caden. I think he was doing the same for me. He remained stoic, fierce and next-level brave through it all.”
5. Is there any advice that you can provide to other parents who are going through what you have gone through?
“I attached zero negativity to the cancer. I only wanted glowing, positive energy around him. It’s tough, especially in the middle of the night when all is quiet, but I wouldn’t let myself spiral into that abyss of darkness and let my mind go “there.” Mind over matter.
Mind Over Medicine by M.D. Lissa Rankin is all about the power of thought. This book really helped me in the very early days of diagnosis. It gave me back a tiny bit of control. I could adopt a positive mind-set and teach Caden to use visualization techniques. Every night he would send out his “patrol guys” and they would make sure his body was rid of any cancerous cell that may still be looming.
We got through it. We just celebrated Caden’s End of Treatment with that very community that supported us through it all.”
6. How can someone purchase your products?
“Products can be purchased directly from Owen’s website, https://thenicebenchco.com. Owen will also be featuring products to sell at the upcoming Seasons Christmas Show from November 17-19 at the Toronto International Centre. Stop in to meet the young kidpreneur!”
Such an inspiring and strong family! We are truly touched by what Owen is doing and admire his drive as a kidpreneur. We know that Owen has a very bright future in anything that he does and the assistance that he is providing to families is heartfelt. I am sure the families that are getting the help appreciate the heart of gold from this family. Keep up the great work Owen and know that what you are doing is so much more than a nice bench. You are giving hope to families by helping them travel to get the treatment they need for their child. I know in my heart that this means the world to them. Special thank you to Owen and his mom Kirstin for taking the time to have us interview them as we are honoured to have had this opportunity!
Until next time…Happy Parenting!