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The Erasmus MC Sophia Foundation and its mission bring people together. Entrepreneurs come together and get to know each other in a different light. That also applies to Jan Koolen and Suzanne Boer. The companies they work for both operate in the world of containers. So does that mean they’re in competition with each other? That’s not how they see it, and in fact their companies are not competitors. Jan and Suzanne introduce themselves.
‘I’m Jan Koolen, married, with four sons. Workwise, I’m one of the owners of Unit45. We manufacture 45ft containers in China, which we then sell in Europe and surrounding countries.’
‘I’m Suzanne Boer, Project Manager at CARU Containers, and I recently gave birth to a baby boy, Thijs. CARU Containers is the largest independent dealer in new and used sea containers.’
Jan and Suzanne are both parents, so they realise how distressing it is when your child is very ill. They understand that an event like Sprinting Sophia, where young patients get a tour of the city in sports cars, is a very special day for these children and their parents. Jan: ‘Unit45 has been taking part in the rally for several years now. I myself have only participated once due to my busy work schedule. But it makes a lasting impression. It’s great to give these sick children a lovely day. When their faces light up and they can’t believe they’re going to be driven around in those luxury sports cars, that really touches me as a father.’ Suzanne adds: ‘I’m delighted that CARU Containers is making fantastic cars available for the event. The cars were driven by colleagues of mine. I spoke to some of them and they all basically told me the same thing, which was that all felt a bit worried about having a sick child in their car, but that the children themselves didn't perceive themselves to be that sick. After all, that day is all about them having fun. Seeing all the happy faces was an experience to cherish for my colleagues. It’s great to be able to achieve that together. It was a top day for everyone, not just for the children and their parents but also for the entrepreneurs.’
‘It gets me quite emotional. And I’m a big guy, but I’ve got a big heart too’
Jan: ‘That’s right. If you need to go to hospital a lot and haven’t got time for anything other than coping with your illness, then a distraction like this is obviously pretty special. They get totally transfixed by the beautiful car they’re in. It gets me quite emotional. And I’m a big guy, but I’ve got a big heart too.’ Suzanne: ‘We drove kids around in cars like proper luxury Ferraris. They loved that, but actually they were keener on going in a Tesla, which they thought was much cooler. Go figure!’
When asked what moved them most, Jan says: ‘The fun.’ Suzanne: ‘I spoke with a few parents. They told me about frequent visits to hospital. Pretty rough. I’ve only just become a mother myself, and seeing my baby boy smile... that’s so special. So seeing the photos of these kids standing next to a beautiful car and beaming with delight... wow! They’ll definitely never forget this experience.’
‘It’s not about the containers. It’s about the children. They come first.’
Contributing to a wonderful project
And so, it’s such a shame that Sprinting Sophia ground to a halt over the past couple of years due to COVID-19. Jan: ‘Tragic!’ Suzanne: ‘Despite the rally not going ahead, it’s great that we’re able to produce this magazine together, enabling us to do our bit towards what is a wonderful project. Fortunately, we’re thinking in terms of opportunities and possibilities to make life more bearable for the children in the Sophia Children’s Hospital in spite of everything.’ Jan: ‘These kinds of event are fantastic. And we need to keep supporting them too. Suzanne and I happen to be in the same industry, albeit in different segments. But even if we were in the same segment, I’d still take part. The mission to help those children is what matters, so you whether or not you are competitors takes second place.’ Suzanne: ‘It’s not about the containers. It’s about the children. They come first.’
Praiseworthy achievement by Sophia Children’s Hospital
Sprinting Sophia is one of the initiatives developed by Sophia Children’s Hospital. But the hospital also has plenty of other activities, such as regular visits by CliniClowns. Suzanne: ‘What I think is awesome about Sophia Children’s Hospital is that they manage to make really tough subjects easy to discuss through a variety of initiatives. That’s a praiseworthy achievement.’ Jan: ‘Absolutely. The CliniClowns are really fun too. Once, I was at the hospital when they were visiting the wards and cheering the kids up. The kids were really poorly but you could see that they got totally into the jokes and really perked up too. These kinds of initiative are keepers. I was recently speaking with some parents who also have a sick child. They only wished one thing: that they had the illness instead of their child. Obviously, it’s awful to have to see your child suffering like that, and if you go on to lose your child... heart-breaking. Parents aren’t supposed to outlive their children. So, I truly do think that Sprinting Sophia is a fantastic project and I’m going to keep doing my utmost to help.’ Suzanne: ‘I completely agree.’
Do you want to know more about Stichting Vrienden from Sophia? Read more about their initiatives at the website and become a donor!