The night his one-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer, Jason Sotiris made her two promises.
The first, a trip to Disneyland.
The second, “Daddy is going to find a way to keep this invisible monster away.”
He delivered on his first promise the day young Angela was released from hospital.
“My wife is from France, so she has family over there she’s never met. To be able to take her to France with all her family waiting at the arrivals gate, and then to take her to Disneyland, was the most amazing day,” said Jason.
“Then to make good on my second promise, which I’m still in the process of, I want this to be the standard garment for someone in hospital.”
Jason is a full-time tradie who has sacrificed his spare time to create ‘Supertee’ – a medical garment fit for a superhero, for those little fighters taking on life-threatening battles in hospital.
“The idea came from my daughter and seeing how hard it was for her to go through her battle, and me desperately wanting to find a way to help,” said Jason.
“Parent’s feel like they can’t touch anything that is connecting their child to a machine, in case they stuff it up or cause further injury. I was trying to take her T-shirt off when she was throwing up, she had this array of tubes, lines, heart monitors etc..and you can’t do it without the help of the nurse.”
“I thought to myself, I need to do something to make her more comfortable. My original focus was just on her, like every parent, you’re just focusing on your child in that moment.”
When Jason’s daughter was cleared from hospital, unable to simply “let go” of what his family went through, his mission became helping other families who were going through the same thing.
“I couldn’t help but feel that I needed to do something, and that’s where this idea came from – ‘let’s see if we can challenge or disrupt the way people are perceived, and how they wear their t-shirts in hospital, in a way where they feel strong, and it gives some independence back to the parents where they don’t need the nurses helping them.’”
Jason pitched his idea to a lifelong friend, who he describes as “the most skeptical person in the world”, and with his support, the two of them put money towards creating Supertee.
“It can’t be reused – it’s an individual gift to that child. It’s even got space on the packaging for their name to be placed. Inside this pack, there is the comic book that tells the story of how it gets given to them. Only a nurse, parent or superhero can give it to them, so you need a sidekick. It has stickers to represent any battle they’ve overcome – if they have a needle there’s stickers there that say ‘brave’, ‘warrior’, ‘strong’, ‘fighter’.”
“There’s a bookmark for the parents, we don’t want to forget the parents in this. It says, ‘keep fighting’, this is a battle and we have to fight it every day. Just know there’s someone out there believing in you.”
The target market was initially people who wanted to buy gifts for children in hospital, that would bring them as much joy as a toy would.
“All of a sudden we started getting these random purchases from people we didn’t know, and we’d get in contact with them and ask who they wanted to send them to. They’d respond by saying, ‘just give it out on our behalf, we love what you’re doing,’” said Jason.
This is where the concept of sponsoring a ‘Supertee pack’ came from, where the pack is delivered to hospitals and dispersed to patients as a gift.
In addition to the garments and packaging goodies, Supertee also has volunteers who dress up as popular superheroes and present the children with their own superhero costume.
“If it was up to me, I’d make hospitals a mix of Disneyland and an amusement park,” said Jason.
Jason’s “business model” is entirely based on helping others.
“It’s probably not the most sustainable one, but if you have food in the fridge, a warm bed at night, what’s your biggest concern at the moment? Would you consider helping someone that’s doing it a little more tough?” he said.
He has been in contact with charities, businesses and organisations all over the globe who may be interested in sponsoring Supertee garments that can be gifted to children fighting in hospital.
Jason’s ultimate goal is to contribute funding to cancer research.
So far, Jason’s project started from Westmead Hospital, where Angela was treated, and has sent him from Perth to Queensland to Newcastle, and he hopes, Greece and beyond.
“This is time I volunteer, away from my family, my work, my children’s future, because I feel it’s an obligation. My daughter was saved, and I can’t let go of what happened to her,” he said.
He has gained support from a number of organisations, including the Pan Lesvian Federation who organised a gala fundraiser for Supertee, after they heard Jason’s business pitch at a networking event.
“To be able to have the support of parents, especially when we all come from different backgrounds, races, cultures…nobody cares about that stuff because we’re seeing it through the eyes of the mother or father. We’re able to relate to each other from that perspective,” said Jason.
The sincerity behind Jason’s business idea is one that applies to everyone who wants to help spread joy to people doing it tough in hospitals.
“I’m not guilting anyone, I don’t hassle anyone. I just get my word out, this is my mission, if you want to help by all means, join us,” he said.
“I would love people who feel the same way as I do to get involved. I’m a tradie, I’m not a business guru!”
His business idea stemmed from a promise made to his daughter that he has committed to, and feels obligated to share with as many people that have and will go through what his family did.
“It’s a tough thing that never leaves you. It stays with you for life.”
If you want to get involved in Jason’s mission, head to supertee.com.au to find out how to sponsor a Supertee pack for a little superhero fighting in hospital.