IN a bid to honour the memory of their late son Gary and Erin Curneen have co-written a series of children’s books about a character named ‘Soccer Roy’.
Gary, who is originally from Omagh, now lives in America where he is the head women’s soccer coach at California State University at Bakersfield.
Gary and Erin’s lives were turned upside down in December last year.
Their first born son Roy Curneen was born on December 3 with a right diaphragmatic hernia.
He was immediately transferred to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) where he spent three weeks under the care of doctors and physicians. Sadly, Roy passed away on December 24, 2014.
Even though Roy could not be saved, Gary and Erin were overwhelmed by the care that their son received and felt a strong urge to give something back.
Gary and Erin have now dedicated themselves to keeping Roy’s spirit alive and raising awareness of the CHLA through the adventures of Soccer Roy. The first book entitled First Touch has been released this week with all profits received being donated to the hospital.
Gary explained, “My wife and I cannot thank the hospital enough for their care and support throughout our three weeks there. It can be very daunting, not to mention stressful, going through something like this in one of the biggest cities in the world – thousands of miles away from our families and friends. We didn’t know what to expect, but what we experienced was nothing short of phenomenal.
“The staff at CHLA went above and beyond in their care of Roy and the hospitality they showed us. Spending so much time in the NICU unit, it is natural that you create a relationship with the staff, but these people were so special. Roy was never a patient to them, and instead more like a member of their own family. They laughed with us and cried with us. One night we went next door to get some sleep, Erin got a text from one of the nurses with a picture of Roy, little smile and eyes wide open, with a message that said, ‘Hi Mom!’. Every day we felt that we were fortunate to be there and, looking back, we truly were.”
Gary revealed it was only in February that he and Erin discussed the idea of doing a children’s book for Roy to create a ‘lasting legacy’ for their son.
He also admitted that concentrating their energies on this project was “therapeutic”, as they knew they were doing something to honour Roy’s memory and “creating something positive that would allow his spirit to keep living on”.
Explaining the concept of the book, Gary said, “Soccer Roy is a fun story about a young boy’s journey through life armed with a soccer ball, a big smile, a great team of friends, and a crazy imagination.
“Reading has to be one of the greatest and most productive ways for parents to build that relationship with their child. “When Roy was in the hospital, we felt closest to him when we were reading him stories throughout the day.”
When the couple found an illustrator in Utah – Garth Bruner – who bought into their concept, Gary said their “dream became a reality”.
Finding a publisher was next. As Gary himself has written two chart topping soccer coaching manuals he knew who to call. Thankfully his publishers – Bennion Kearny – agreed to print their first ever children’s book.
Gary concluded, “As you can imagine, Soccer Roy is not only close to our heart, it is our heart. This is something that has helped us immensely through the past eight months. It is not a sad book, but a happy one. Soccer Roy’s character represents many things: a celebration of love, family, happiness, positive attitude, energy, all played out with a young child who has a love of soccer.
“We need as much help as we can get to get the word out: Buy a copy (or a couple for friends), take a photo and post it on your social media. Soccer Roy is worth it!”
For further information or to order a copy visit www.soccerroy.com. The book is also available via Amazon.
Gary and Erin Curneen pictured with baby Roy in the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.