The James Fund

The James Fund

September 29, 2005 13:06 ET

Tom Hanks' "Space Mouse" Canada Bound

MDS Nordion to Give Statue to The Hospital for Sick Children Attention: Arts/Entertainment Editor, Assignment Editor, Health/Medical Editor, Lifestyle Editor, News Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Sept. 29, 2005) - "Space Mouse" is Canada bound and headed for The Hospital for Sick Children, thanks to Canadian life sciences company MDS Nordion, who logged the winning bid for the 6 foot tall, 318 kilogram (700 pound) Mickey Mouse statue. Designed by Tom Hanks, Space Mouse was one of the more popular 75 person sized Mickey Mouse Statues auctioned by Sotheby's and the Walt Disney Company as the culmination of celebrations commemorating the 75th anniversary of the world's most famous mouse. Space Mouse sold for $17,500 ($15,000 US), which will benefit The James Fund (JF), Canada's leading fund fighting neuroblastoma, a deadly form of childhood cancer. Hanks is the James Fund's Honourary Patron.

The James Fund was established in the name of James Birrell to fight the disease that ultimately killed him 3 ½ years ago at the age of eight. The James Fund, housed within SickKids Foundation, is both the only Canadian charity and the only family run fund selected to benefit from the sale of one of the Mickey figures. Tom Hanks designed Space Mouse with James in mind having befriended him over the phone and through letters where they shared a mutual fascination about space. Hanks also starred in James' favourite movie, "Apollo 13," the true story of three astronauts who battled incredible odds to make it back home when all seemed lost.

"We couldn't be happier that Space Mouse will live at SickKids where James received such excellent care," said an elated Syd Birrell, James' father, who attended the exclusive auction preview party with his family, and then a week later, the auction in New York. "That MDS Nordion is helping us remember James in this way while lifting the spirits of other ill children and their families speaks volumes about the culture of the company and the good hearts of the people who work there. Disney made the experience truly special and memorable -- and of course, we are so very grateful to Tom Hanks who set this whole thing in motion," he added.

"When I have to make the choice, it will always be to keep battling cancer," James once said. "I am not giving up!" Of the Fund that bears his name, he said, "With all this experimenting, they'll get it figured out and then all the kids with neuroblastoma will be able to survive."

Those words have galvanized the team of James Fund scientists as they work towards a day when no child will suffer the horrors of this disease, which claims a child somewhere in North America every sixteen hours.

James' remarkable and spirited fight against neuroblastoma is the subject of an uplifting and inspiring book by his father Syd called "Ya Can't Let Cancer Ruin Your Day." With a foreword by Tom Hanks, the book is the collection of journals Syd wrote and shared via email throughout James' five-year illness, chronicling not only James' fight against cancer, but also the extraordinary adventures they shared as a family as they tried to pack as much living into the very short time they had left with James.

The book, which was released this summer with the generous support of MDS Nordion, has sold briskly, available both at and at select Chapters and
Indigo stores and also at ($19.93, the year of James' birth). A portion of the proceeds from each book benefits The James Fund at SickKids.

Background on Tom Hanks involvement with James
Mr. Hanks contacted James by phone after learning of James' fascination with the Apollo 13 story and a friendship began. Shortly after James' death, he wrote about the impact of his connection to James.
"James Birrell was a good kid," Tom Hanks wrote the family. "James was a cheerful voice on the phone and a diligent pen pal who was a big fan of space ships and railroad trains. When neuroblastoma took James away, that word was new and ugly."

About the James Birrell Fund for Neuroblastoma Research
The James Fund was established at SickKids Foundation by the family of James Birrell to generate funds and knowledge leading to new therapies for the treatment of patients with neuroblastoma. It has rapidly grown to be Canada's leading neuroblastoma research initiative and actor Tom Hanks is its Honourary Patron. To date, nine research projects have been funded, six papers published, a drug-testing unit has been established and several international collaborations are underway bringing new hope to the parents of children suffering from this terrible childhood cancer.

About MDS Nordion's Role with the James Fund
MDS Nordion played a small role in James' treatment during his battle with neuroblastoma supplying the medical isotope, iodine-123, for a drug used to diagnose and monitor the disease. However, through circumstances, the company developed a lasting relationship with the Birrell family.

About MDS Nordion
MDS Nordion ( is a world leader in radioisotopes, radiation and related technologies. MDS Nordion is part of MDS Inc. (TSX:MDS; NYSE:MDZ). MDS Inc. has more than 9,000 highly skilled people in 27 countries. MDS Inc. provides a diverse range of superior products and services to increase our customers' speed, precision and productivity in the drug development and disease diagnosis processes. MDS Inc. is a global, values-driven health and life sciences company, recognized for our reliability and collaborative relationships as we help create better outcomes in the treatment of disease. Find out more at or by calling 1-888-MDS-7222, 24 hours a day.


For additional information and/or to arrange for an interview, please contact:
Susan McLennan
Babble On Communications
Ph: (416) 699-1846
Cell: (416) 525-5177

Shelley Maclean
External Communications Specialist, MDS Nordion
Tel: (613) 592-3400 ext. 2414
Cell: (613) 614-7997


Contact Information

  • Susan McLennan, Babble On Communications
    Primary Phone: 416-699-1846
    Secondary Phone: 416-525-5177