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Staying connected wherever

Inventor makes device so children with cancer don’t have to feel alone when in the hospital.

April 28, 2008|By Michael Miller

John Templeton hopes that before long, the online communication system he developed will make shopping easier, cut down on phone bills and gas expenses, and even assist with the Iraq war.

When he first got the idea for the technology, though, he had a much more modest goal in mind. Templeton’s teenage son, John Paul Templeton, died of cancer 11 years ago, and he never forgot the loneliness and isolation his son felt while languishing in the hospital.

“He never wanted to be where he was,” said Templeton, a Newport Beach resident. “He never wanted to be in the hospital. He never wanted to be in chemo. He wanted to be with his friends.”

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Now, Templeton has developed a system that gives kids like John Paul a chance to get out of the hospital — virtually, anyway. His program, foneBro, which he debuted this month, allows users to see and communicate with anyone using nothing but a laptop and a cheap webcam. When users log onto www.fonebro.com, they can chat over a pair of windows on the computer screen, and even hold up text and objects for the other party to see.

Templeton plans to market the technology to businesses nationwide, but for right now, he’s taken foneBro to its original place of inspiration. Children’s Hospital of Orange County has acquired the technology and is considering using it as a pilot program for young cancer patients.

“John and I sort of believe that CHOC is a start of where we could be,” said Leonard Sender, the medical director of the hospital’s cancer institute. “We would eventually like to be in every children’s hospital and connect all the kids.”

FoneBro isn’t the first project Templeton has undertaken to give young inpatients greater access to the outside world. He worked with the developer of San Clemente’s official website in 2000 to create a site that allowed bedridden kids to order food and toys by sending pictures of what they wanted to social workers.

Last year, while staying in Costa Rica to sell coffee online, he developed foneBro and marketed the technology to companies throughout Central America and the Caribbean.

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