A shy Wills Hodgkinson — and his not-so shy sister Scarlett — paid a visit to the Western News office in November, looking strong and healthy.                                Steve Kidd/Western News

A shy Wills Hodgkinson — and his not-so shy sister Scarlett — paid a visit to the Western News office in November, looking strong and healthy. Steve Kidd/Western News

Penticton family giving back to BC Children’s Hospital Foundation

The mother of a young Penticton cancer fighter wants to support the people that helped the family

It’s coming up on a year since young Wills Hodgkinson was diagnosed with a cancerous kidney tumour, and his mother is organizing a fundraiser in support of the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Two-year-old Scarlet cuddles with her big brother Wills. Photo courtesy Tim Hodgkinson

“He’s doing really, really good. He’s back at school and playing soccer. You would never know he was sick,” said mom Neeley Brimer, who is organizing the fundraiser on Jan. 19 with her partner, Eric Inglis of Inglis Real Estate.

“We, just kind of as a family, felt like we wanted to give back to the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation.”

Related: ‘Hero’ kid fighting cancer helping with B.C. Children’s Hospital fundraiser

Brimer said they’re focusing particularly on the oncology and hematology departments.

“They were a pretty daily part of our lives when we were there and did a lot for William. That was kind of our inspiration for wanting to do something for them,” said Brimer. “When we were there, I actively saw them working in so many different families lives. The people from the foundation were in the wards, they were in the hospital rooms, they were genuinely putting smiles on kids faces.”

Brimer said it was a lot of actions that might seem small, like bringing a bored child a LEGO set or putting a stuffed toy in a baby’s arms to put a smile on their face.

“We saw the full spectrum of what they were doing, and we saw it every day,” said Brimer.

“I don’t like the reason I that I have to go there but I still miss everyone very much. I used to talk to the new kids and tell them that it’s OK and to be positive,” said Wills. “I hope someone’s doing that when I’m not there and maybe by getting more support they can have people like me doing that all the time.”

Wills’ dad, Tim Hodgkinson, said the family were effectively living at the Teck Acute Centre at BC Children’s Hospital for the better part of a year.

The fundraiser takes the form of a tour of four luxury homes, with 100 tickets being sold for $100 apiece. The tour starts and ends at the Lakeside Resort, with registration at 9:45 a.m., and the four buses leaving at about 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 19.

“The buses are each going to go to different houses, so there are only about 25 people at a house at one time. Then we’re going to rotate through the four houses,” said Brimer.

At each house, sponsored by local small businesses, there will be food and wine tastings, swag bags and everyone will end up at the Great Estates Wine Experience Centre. Besides more wine tastings paired with desserts, and live music at the experience centre, Brimer said they have a number of items to raffle off, along with Wildstone Construction donating a three-day, all-inclusive, trip to the Yukon to tour the Northern Lights.

The family’s nightmare started in late January 2018, when Wills complained to his dad, Tim, of a tummy ache. Tim took him to Penticton Regional Hospital, where the seven-year-old was diagnosed with a Wilms’ tumour.

Related: Community shows support for seven-year-old battling cancer

After weeks of chemo and radiation therapy to shrink the large tumour, which had attached to surrounding organs as well as the kidney, surgeons at BC Children’s Hospital were able to remove the tumour. That was followed by months of more treatment for the eight tumours that were discovered on Wills’ lungs.

“We’re expecting a phone call from the hospital any day now to go back and get some more scans. Barring any unexpected surprise, we’re hoping that we’re just kind of on the same path as we have been. He’s done with chemo. William still has these nodules on his lungs, but they think that they’ve killed the active disease,” said Brimer. “These scans that we have next, we’ll just kind of confirm that, but he’s doing awesome.”

Wills has since become something of a spokesperson for the Children’s Hospital Foundation, a poster child for one fundraising campaign, and working with the Whitecaps Football Club to introduce the Christmas fundraiser.

Related: Penticton boy helping launch B.C. Children’s Hospital Christmas fundraiser

“There’s a lot of questioning now around people giving to a charity, how much of it goes to the actual charity and how much goes into pockets. I’ve seen it work, I’ve seen this foundation do what they do,” said Brimer. “When you see a foundation actually making a difference in people’s lives. It kind of compels you to want to give back to them.”

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