When Arrow actor Stephen Amell and WWE superstar Neville defeated Stardust and King Barrett at the pro wrestling promotion’s marquee Summerslam event on Aug. 23, it wasn’t just a win for fans of the CW action-adventure television series. Also scoring a pinfall was a small hospice care facility in Toronto called Emily’s House, largely thanks to the charitable efforts of the Canadian actor Amell (along with a helping hand from his in-ring adversary Stardust).
Wanting to do something to acknowledge Oliver Muirhead, a seven-year-old Toronto boy who died on July 12 from Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia (JMLL), and those who supported him in his last days, Amell and Stardust put aside their difference to create a limited edition promotional shirt commemorating their fight.
Selling for $28 US ($37.31 CAD), Amell was hoping to sell at least 1,000 of the “Amell Vs. Stardust” 3/4 sleeved shirt. Wrestling and/or archery fans ended up buying 15,689 of them before the campaign ended after the Aug. 24 episode of RAW, WWE’s flagship television show. All the proceeds will go to Emily’s House minus the cost of producing the shirts. In a recent Twitter post Stardust said they’d raised more than $150,000 US ($199,890 CAD) from the shirt sales.
“Growing up, I loved my WWE shirts,” said Amell on the official sales site for the Amell vs. Stardust shirt. “The classic graphics with the date and arena… So if I’m going to risk life & limb in a WWE Ring this Sunday, we’re DEFINITELY doing something to raise money for charity.
“A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Emily’s House. Emily’s House is a Toronto-based hospice for children and families specializing in end of life care. The Muirhead Family — introduced to me through a mutual friend — spent the final week of their son ‘Odd Sock’ Ollie’s life at Emily’s House. Ollie passed on July 12th of this year. So for Ollie’s memory and all the hard workers at Emily’s House, let’s make a difference.”
Stuart Muirhead, Ollie’s father, had nothing but kind words for Emily’s House.
“It’s end of life care,” Muirhead told Samaritanmag. “We were going to try to take Oliver home from the hospital when the treatments stopped and do all of the stuff ourselves, like pain management and nursing and all that stuff. But I went to Emily’s House and it’s just a fantastic place and they just allow you to just be with your child. Not have to worry about anything.
“They do your laundry, they make your meals and you just be with your child.”
Muirhead and his family, including wife Laura and his other son Jack, are part of Toronto’s tight knit arts-minded-people-who-play-hockey community. He came in contact with Amell through mutual friend Christopher Bolton from the hockey sitcom Rent-A-Goalie where Amell used to play the character Billy on the show.
Amell knew about Oliver’s story, but Muirhead didn’t know the Green Arrow was going to do something about it.
“I had no idea he was making the t-shirts, and he did it all on his own,” said Muirhead, who believes Amell also got the WWE to waive any related licensing fees in order to maximize the money they’d generate. “Stardust was involved in it as well. He said that they were going to do something for charity and they asked people for names of charities to use. I can’t say for sure, but I sent him an email saying ‘you should use Emily’s House.'”
And Amell did.
Stardust, known without his bizarre face paint stage gimmick as Cody Rhodes, son of late wrestling great Dusty Rhodes, has also declared that because they sold more than 10,000 shirts he’s going to personally deliver the cheque to Emily’s House. No word on if he’ll be in costume or not.
When an illness such as JMLL strikes a family like the Muirheads it can make for a tremendous strain above and beyond the obvious concern for a gravely ill child. While Emily’s House was the specific beneficiaries of this campaign Muirhead made a point to note that Sick Kids Hospital (“It was our home away from home for 18 months”), Canadian Blood Services and their related One Match bone marrow donor program (“Get people between the ages of 17 and 35 to swab. It could help save someone’s life. Oliver, unfortunately, there was nothing they could do with what he had.”), and OPACC, Ontario Parents Advocating For Children With Cancer (They are a big help to families with kids fighting cancer”) all provided support for both Oliver and the Muirhead family.
Muirhead is also genuinely appreciative of Amell and Stardust’s efforts.
“It’s actually quite amazing to see this machine work, this PR machine that is Stephen Amell and WWE,” he says. “It’s absolutely nuts and it’s getting awareness out there for places like Emily’s House. Amell also did stuff for us, we have a blood donor page — Team Odd Socks Ollie Blood Donors — and he did a message for that, trying to get people to donate blood. Part of Oliver’s last six months there was a lot of blood transfusions and platelet transfusions. Every other day we were getting blood, so that’s a big deal, too. Like the Facebook page went from a hundred people to almost 2,000 in a few days.
“It makes a world of difference.”