Skip to main content
Celebration of Service

Answering the call

From site to sensory, an IBM volunteer helps bring some joy to terminally ill children

If, at their birth, we soar on the promise and innocence of our children, we sink and suffer without bounds if our little ones die well before they ever should. Then, somehow, we lift ourselves up—possibly inspired by the courage of the child who has endured such terrible pain—and we continue to live.

When Mick Budge, a data architect for IBM in Basingstoke, UK, was asked to help Daniel Bowler’s Memorial Trust Fund enhance its web site, he didn’t realize he was answering a call that would change his life.

Mick had worked on the web site of another charity, and his skill caught the attention of Mike Bowler. Mike’s son Daniel, who was almost three years old, passed away from a cancer called neuroblastoma. The Bowler family and friends determined that some good would come from their sadness, and they established a fund to improve the quality of life for children with terminal illnesses and severe disabilities. Known as Daniel Bowler’s Memorial Trust Fund in honor of their son, the fund’s website needed an update and Mick got the call to help.

“In the very beginning, this was meant to be a very short project where I found a few places on their site to be improved, did the work, helped them out and that’s it,” said Mick. “I never expected to get as personally involved as I have.”


Moved to “serve”

Mick started improving the Fund’s website, working on its functionality, adding a capability for online donations, and addressing other maintenance issues. While the technical effort may have been routine, the emotional toll was especially high; a link on the site provided the details of young Daniel’s Bowler’s life with cancer, as told by his father. After reading the story Mick said, “You couldn’t help but be moved to tears for what this little boy endured and the strength of his parents to care for him.”

Talking about death at the end of life is difficult for many of us, while talking about it at the beginning of life—when children have terminal illnesses, is almost universally avoided. Mick had wondered, “What can I possibly say to a parent who has a really sick child? What do you say to the kid? So for a while I avoided putting myself in those situations believing I didn’t really have much to offer.”

Despite Mick’s initial reluctance, the Bowlers finally succeeded in getting him to attend one of the Fund’s events: a theater show organized for about 100 children and their families living with terminal illness or severe disabilities.

“I attended and helped set the venue up. This was the first time I had any contact with either the children or parents who the trust helps,” Mick recalls. “During the intermission I helped make refreshments and gave out little bags of goodies for the children. To see them laughing and smiling was an absolutely fantastic feeling,” Mick says. “They’re just kids who want to play and have fun like other children. I didn’t need to say anything particularly brilliant. I just needed to keep serving tea and handing out sweets.”

The bus stops here

Five years later Mick is a trustee of the Daniel Bowler Memorial fund, he is the fund’s Web Master, and he participates in as many events as possible.

In 2011, in an effort to reach as many in their area as possible, the fund is looking to convert a bus into a mobile sensory center that would benefit children with various disabilities in North Hampshire. “This is a big undertaking for us, but one that will let us put even more smiles on children’s faces, and bring some relief to their parents.” Sensory integration therapy can play a role helping children with a variety of developmental disabilities function more independently. Acquiring, outfitting, and maintaining the bus in its first year will be the Fund’s largest project requiring them to raise £250,000.

Meanwhile, the Fund continues hosting its annual Christmas party, theater shows for children and their families, outdoor gatherings and picnics, as well as purchasing equipment for the local hospital.

Mick reflects, “The whole thing snowballed on me, but now I can’t imagine not doing this; helping the Fund, the children and contributing however I can. I can honestly say I am in awe of the way the children deal with their adversity.” He adds, “I feel there are times when I get so much more back from the children than I’m giving.”

IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.