Former Disney artist uses talent to draw attention to children’s needs during COVID-19

by Freya Lucas

May 12, 2020

Without a doubt, life has become more challenging for all children as a result of COVID-19, with closed playgrounds, social distancing, and family stressors from isolation. 

 

One group of children, however, has it especially tough, and it is this group that artist Angus Olsen hopes to draw attention to through his series of frank cartoons, which powerfully illustrate what the COVID-19 pandemic means for children with cancer, compared to the life of a healthy child. 

 

The cartoons reached nearly 250,000 people in the first 48 hours of their release, a testament to the power of Mr Olsen’s work. Sadly, the subject matter hits very close to home for him, as his daughter Jane fought the disease for 52 weeks after being diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma when she was just two years old. 

 

“When we went through treatment there was no shortage of anything. Even when everyday life was ‘normal’ it was hell on earth. I cannot even imagine facing cancer therapy with a pandemic going on,” Mr Olsen said.

 

As a result of his personal connection, he has teamed up with Redkite, an Australian children’s cancer support charity, to sketch what children and families must go through every day whilst facing cancer, not just during a pandemic. The cartoons have strongly resonated with people from around the world.

 

“I hope that with these cartoons, everyone will be able to understand the seriousness COVID-19 poses to a child with cancer,” he said. 

 

In his most recent illustration, Mr Olsen juxtaposes a healthy child who is struggling with being stuck inside and being bored, unable to see friends, with a child in hospital in a locked ward, who experiences the same reality during every cancer treatment cycle. 

 

Mr Olsen said that Redkite was “always there” with support during his daughter’s treatment, explaining his reasons for wanting to give something back to the charity. 

 

Redkite’s CEO, Ms Monique Keighery, said that these raw cartoons ‘speak the truth’ of what living through a pandemic is like for families facing cancer. 

 

“Life is challenging for all of us at the moment, but it’s even more challenging for families who are also facing the unimaginable pressures of childhood cancer.” 

 

Families who are navigating the childhood cancer journey during the COVID-19 pandemic, were being “overwhelmed by concern for the health of their vulnerable and immunocompromised child, hit with job losses and business closures when they can least afford it, and stressed by being separated from their support networks like grandparents and friends,” Ms Keighery said. 

 

“We’ve never seen such an increase in need for our services. In March alone, the number of support sessions delivered jumped by over 30 per cent and financial support funding to families by 15 per cent from the same time last year,” she added. 


The cartoons are being released once a week on Redkite’s Facebook page, and Ms Keighery hopes that they support Australians to “pause to think what life would be like for a child with cancer during a pandemic”. 

 

“These kids and families need extra support at this time and for their communities to acknowledge and understand their unique challenges,” she added.

 

Early childhood education and care services who would like to support Redkite’s work at this demanding time can access information about donations here

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