“Sometimes the biggest stars in a child’s life have never been on TV or radio or movies in their lives,” Ryan Tubridy told journalists a few days ago, teasing a beautiful moment we all shed a tear over on last night’s Late Late Toy Show.
Adam King from Cork touched all of our hearts as he told Ryan about his brittle bones and held up a handmade heart sign offering virtual hugs from a social distance. He revealed how he would like to be an astronaut, adding he would love to be the person who counts down to takeoff.
The Irish Embassy in the USA later tweeted to say they’ll tell NASA about Adam. “Keep looking to the stars young man. In the meantime, we'll reach out to our friends NASA & see if they can't help bring your dreams a little closer,” they said.
His big brown eyes lit up when Ryan asked him about a stay in hospital earlier this year and the kind porter he met while there.
Clearly, this particular porter left an impression on young Adam, who says he brought him presents and is one of his favourite people.
“The last time I saw him was when I was at Temple Street, sick,” Adam said before James’ Giant Peach turned around, revealing John Doyle within.
“It’s John Doyle, the nicest hospital porter in Ireland,” Ryan proclaimed as little Adam clapped joyfully.
John spoke about how Adam has made an impact on his life and on the life of everyone who meets the remarkable little boy.
“Adam has such an infectious smile that even the darkest planet out there would light up and everybody who he meets, he just brings the best out of people. He is just unbelievable,” John said.
The much-loved hospital porter said he loved meeting the “very special children who come to us on a daily basis” and said the gift he and other staff members give them “just makes their life a little bit easier as they go through this journey.”
John paid tribute to Adam, who watched on with stars in his eyes.
“He’s an absolute hero. I am actually humbled that Adam is my friend.”
The emotional moment came a short time after we met Saoirse Ruane, a remarkable young girl who revealed she felt a pain in her ankle during last year’s Toy Show, which she watched from home. She went to the doctor the next day and, following some tests, was diagnosed with a tumour that changed her life.
"I had to get my leg taken away from me,” the eight-year-old told Ryan as she showed him her prosthetic limb, creatively decorated with a picture of a unicorn. She told Ryan about her dreams, one of which was to walk by Christmas, before reaching for her crutches and taking some steps across the studio.
Ryan asked Saoirse’s mother, Roseanne, to join them in the studio as he revealed the Toy Show Appeal. Rather than give away money to a viewer through a competition, this year they set up a fundraiser to which viewers could donate online. Within 20 minutes they had raised over €800,000 and by the show’s closing credits, €5.5m had been donated by the Irish public.
There were lighter moments, too. It really would be difficult to describe the Late Late Toy Show phenomenon to someone who's not from Ireland. Last night's trending topics on Twitter included the phrases 'ROCK IS THE BEST MEDICINE', 'bawling' and 'Polly Protestant'. How do you explain that to someone from England? It's the mayhem that makes the Toy Show so special, along with the magic.
Kerry girl Saoirse told Ryan about how she wants to be a vet, before she treated stuffed dog Toby Tubridy for symptoms of Covid-19. With an efficient testing system, a thorough contact-tracing regime, a Pfizer vaccine at hand and a disdain for the HSE backlog in testing for stuffed animals, Saoirse was brilliant. If the vet career doesn’t work out she has a job waiting for her in public health, with Simon Harris describing her as “our newest addition to the public health team” on Twitter.
Elsewhere, Aidan from Midleton, Co Cork wowed Ryan with his knowledge of all things train-related. He scored full marks in a quick-fire round of train mastermind and won a golden ticket from Irish Rail for his efforts. Ryan told him he can visit Iarnród Éireann in Inchicore to tinker with their trains and probably teach them a thing or two about engines and rails.
Another show-stopping moment came when singer Michael started performing a flawless cover of Dermot Kennedy’s We Could Be Giants, only to become star-struck when Dermot himself joined in. Like a pro, Michael overcame his emotions and rose to the occasion, delivering a powerful performance with his hero, who later gifted him a signed guitar backstage.
Last night’s events shone a light of the true stars of the Late Late Toy Show: the children. I can’t remember a single toy that was featured, but I remember every giggle, every heartfelt word, every smile from the children who took part.