Smear campaign targets sick toddler's family

By Julia Proverbs - additional reporting by Carly Gibbs


The parents of 19-month-old leukaemia sufferer Sativa Eagle are sickened by accusations they are claiming two benefits and spending donations on expensive clothing, golf clubs and tattoos.

The accusations were posted on Sativa's Facebook support page following a fundraising headshave this month that raised $600.

The smear comes just two weeks after Sativa, who has previously featured in the Bay of Plenty Times, nearly lost her battle with cancer.

Sativa's mother, Sheree Roose, has since removed the online comments by "Lily Greer", who she suspected gave a false name.

"She said we were pretending to not live together and claiming two benefits and saying how dare we ask for help and fundraising when we were buying labelled clothing, getting tattoos done and buying golf clubs," she told the Bay of Plenty Times.

Miss Roose said she and Mr Eagle did not claim two benefits and openly lived together.

After losing 10kg, she had recently been given clothes by her family and Mr Eagle had received a $200 voucher from Hallensteins after also losing 10kg.

"We have both lost a lot of weight," she said.

A spokesperson from Hallensteins confirmed a $200 voucher had been donated after the business was contacted by a friend of Miss Roose and Mr Eagle.

Mr Eagle had upgraded his golf clubs, after selling two old sets on Trade Me for $250.

He purchased a new set for $300 from Rebel Sport - a purchase made before any donation money was received.

Miss Roose said golf was an outlet for her partner when he was feeling "overwhelmed", and the game offered him stress relief.

She had had an existing Tinkerbell tattoo, with Sativa and her twin sister Indee's names on it, redone because the names were illegible.

"I got the tattoo a while back ... when I thought Sativa was going to die it was very important to get it redone," she said.

The tattooist gave her a discount after hearing her story and her friends chipped in for the rest as a birthday present, she explained.

"Obviously someone has seen it and assumed I spent a lot of money."

Sativa and Indee were born premature, but otherwise healthy, in September 2010.

Four months later Sativa began having difficulty feeding, cried often and appeared to be in intense pain.

After being rushed to Starship Children's Hospital, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Sativa has not long returned to her Tauranga home after a three-month stay at Starship, where it was hoped she would have a bone marrow transplant.

While having a routine lumbar puncture, it was discovered the cancer had worsened and she needed to undergo further chemotherapy before having a transplant.

However she became seriously ill and ended up on a ventilator for 20 days.

"They told us three times she would not live," Miss Roose said.

But Sativa surprised even the medical staff and pulled through.

"It was a miracle. There's no other way to put it," Miss Roose said.

The family was now waiting for an appointment with Starship to determine whether Sativa was well enough for the transplant to go ahead.

"If she doesn't get the transplant there's not much else we can do."

Miss Roose said she was "sad and upset" by the online accusations.

The Facebook page Please help Baby Sativa & her Family fight Leukemia was set up last year by a friend who wanted to help ease the financial burden of having a severely ill child.

The $1000 originally raised was spent on bills and car seats for the two girls, Miss Roose said.

The page then became a means of updating people. The first and only time the couple asked for money was when their car broke down.

"It was really hard for us both to do. We don't like to ask but we had to swallow our pride," she said.

Tauranga mum-of-three Laura Rowe set up an account to manage donations after finding herself touched by Sativa's story.

In doing so, she became friends with Miss Roose and Mr Eagle. A signee to the account, she said the couple got by on what they had, and had only ever asked for money when things got too hard.

When Sativa was on a ventilator they missed a week's rent and needed help. "It's only ever been at a crucial time."

While others had initiated fundraising events, the couple had not.

Members of their church, Greerton Bible Church, had donated money for specific items such as new shoes for Mr Eagle.

"We are not asking for anything but we are not going to turn help away."

Miss Roose said the $600 raised during the headshave event on Saturday, April 13, would be put aside for household emergencies as they lived "pay cheque-to-pay cheque".

If for some reason, they did not need the money for emergency living costs in the future, it would be kept aside in the hope of spending it on a special family holiday.

"If we can ... a bit of time away after the bone marrow transplant, to give Sativa a reward for being so brave."

Miss Roose said she appreciated that those who donated would expect their money to be spent wisely.

She asked that visitors to Sativa's page post respectful comments.

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- Bay of Plenty Times

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