How a dying man and his son could forge a Lego legacy

Image copyright Damien MacRae
Image caption Damien MacRae and his son, Aiden, have made their toys sun-smart

As he endured radiotherapy, Damien MacRae found playing Lego with his seven-year-old son, Aiden, was one way to block out the pain.

The pair built spaceships, pirate galleons and fortresses in their Sydney home following the discovery of melanoma on Mr MacRae's ear three years ago.

But in the piles of interlocking plastic bricks, Aiden could not find pieces to create an Australian beach. His father soon realised none existed.

So the two decided to conceive their own, in what would become a very personal mission.

Heartfelt plea

Cancer has since spread to Mr MacRae's lungs and brain. Last month in a Facebook message, he told friends that his brain tumours had multiplied.

"Unfortunately, my doctors say that I have 6-10 weeks left to live. Six months would be a miracle," he wrote in the post on 14 April.

"Obviously this has made me focus on spending as much time as I can with family and friends."

Image caption The pair spent hours fine-tuning their beach-themed Lego set

Mr MacRae asked for help in realising his "one dying wish": to get Lego to consider making Surf Lego Rescue, the idea invented on Aiden's bedroom floor.

First they would need 10,000 votes on a Lego concepts website.

"I think everyone gets why this project has become so important to me and Aiden," Mr MacRae told his friends.

The total was reached within days, meaning the project will be considered. Mr MacRae said he had never seen his son more excited.

"To see him dancing and smiling because of this, I've never been prouder," he told the BBC.

"It's the happiest I've seen him in a long time."

Sun-smart message

The father and son had spent hours talking about their ideas, taking inspiration from Australia's iconic Surf Life Saving volunteer group. They ordered custom-made toys from a company in London.

"The Lego universe doesn't have much that reflects Australian culture," Mr MacRae said.

"There is a Sydney Opera House toy set but not much else."

Their collection captures a sense of fun at the beach, but it also highlights the dangers of sun exposure.

The lifeguard characters are named after celebrities who had skin cancer scares, such as Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. All wear sunscreen and hats.

Image caption One of the leading causes of melanoma is a history of sunburn, especially in childhood
Image caption The colours of the toys pay tribute to Australia's volunteer lifeguards

The set also includes surfers, a lifeboat, a jet ski, a quad bike, seagulls, a jellyfish and a shark-patrolling drone.

"I'm not a Lego designer at all," Mr MacRae laughed. "I'm a 42-year-old intellectual property lawyer."

The Danish company will decide soon if it will produce the set. If it does, it is likely to take at least 10 months before sale.

"What a fantastic project, depicting an action-packed day at the beach, full of thoughtful and playable details," a Lego spokeswoman said.

Australia's Financial Review newspaper reported that Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, whose family owns Lego, had been personally moved by the campaign.

Image caption Aiden's favourite figure has been given his name

Since 2010, 19 projects from the Lego Ideas platform have been made - such as Women of Nasa.

"They've been really generous with their kind words and indicated they will take my illness into consideration when they're doing the review," Mr MacRae said.

But Mr MacRae knows that time is running out.

"Getting to 10,000 votes was my goal," he said. "And the possibility that I could leave a legacy for Aiden."

"To know that he can take ideas that he's come up with, on the bedroom floor, and take it out to the world."

Related Topics