sarah bankuti toronto

Toronto mom inspired by her young daughter's struggle creates swimwear to fight cancer

After her daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumour, a Toronto woman created a children's book series with swimwear and princess accessories to help her daughter and other kids coping with cancer.

Leslieville resident Sarah Bankuti tells blogTO her daughter Alice, now two-and-a-half-years old, was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 10 months old.

Bankuti and her husband found out by chance that Alice had a tumour. One day Alice woke up from a nap with a head tilt. They took her to SickKids hospital, where a doctor suspected a tumour, and an MRI confirmed it.

Alice's tumour is growing and she will need treatment for a long time. Although her condition isn't terminal, the doctors worry about her quality of life and how other children will treat her.

So Bankuti started looking for books that Alice could relate to.

"Alice loves princesses, so I was trying to look for books where they didn’t have long flowing hair or they were wearing glasses and there was literally hardly anything," Bankuti says.

Alice will likely lose her hair in treatment, and after her brain biopsy, she developed a lazy-eye disorder, which required glasses.

As a childcare worker herself, Bankuti has read many children’s books so she decided to create her own series of books about Princess Lily, a young princess living with cancer, illustrated by Kristina Dutton, titled Princess Lily Earns her Beads.

Like a typical Disney princess, Princess Lily has several accessories, including a swimsuit.

"I want children with cancer to have a princess like them too, and they can dress up like them and feel special too," she says.

The Bravery Beads by Sara Wood, a natural lip balm by Fragrance & Friends, and the swimsuits themselves are designed by former National Ballet dancer Krista Dowson.

Alice loves the water, so Bankuti knew Princess Lily would have a mermaid adventure, making the swimsuit a natural fit. A dress will be coming soon too.

Even though the first book in the series isn't out until August, the mermaid-like swimsuits are available now for the summer season.

Proceeds, minus the cost of materials, will go to Ontario Parents Advocating for Children with Cancer, a charity that supports families of children diagnosed with cancer in Ontario that has helped her family, Bankuti says.

The proceeds from future accessories will be going to different cancer organizations.

Lead photo by

Sarah Bankuti


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