Pipers lead the way Saturday during the Laps for Liam fundraiser at the Penticton Secondary School track.

Pipers lead the way Saturday during the Laps for Liam fundraiser at the Penticton Secondary School track.

Penticton laces ’em up to help boy in need

Uplands Elementary School parents organize walk-a-thon to raise funds for family of boy who's battling a brain tumour in Vancouver hospital

School kids laced up their sneakers Saturday to help a friend in need.

Penticton boy Liam McGrath, 10, has been in B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver since January battling against a tumour on his brain stem.

Inspired by his fight, the Uplands Elementary School student’s classmates and their parents organized a walk-a-thon to raise money for his family’s eventual return home.

The event, dubbed Laps for Liam, attracted a couple hundred people to the field at Penticton Secondary School, where a DJ, bouncy castle and other activities provided a festival-like atmosphere.

“It’s surreal to see how many people know our story, know Liam’s story, and are here to support him. It’s a great feeling,” said his half-sister, Karissa Hackman.

Hackman said her brother has been battling the tumour for two years, and the current round of treatment includes chemotherapy and radiation. He also had a tracheotomy to help him breathe and has had a feeding tube inserted into his stomach.

“Right now he’s had a good couple of weeks, but his prognosis changes every week,” Hackman said. “But he’s doing good. He’s fighting hard, he’s a survivor, and he’s going to make it home.”

She said the walk-a-thon would be live streamed on the Internet so her brother could watch from the hospital.

Jennifer Cline, one of the parent organizers, said 150 people had confirmed their participation in Laps for Liam, although she expected the actual number to be higher.

Cline said McGrath’s parents are practically living at the hospital in Vancouver, so the family finances have suffered.

“We want to make it as comfortable and natural and normal (as possible) when they come home,” she said.

The parents also staged a bottle drive two weeks ago that raised $3,500 for the McGrath family.

Uplands student Quinn Shauer, 9, said he expected to add $5 to that total through Laps for Liam.

“He’s a really nice kid. He uses his manners and he’s kind to other people,” Shauer said of his ailing friend.

“It feels kind of good to be helping him in this kind of way.”