Wills Hodgkinson (wearing his Batman T-shirt) is surrounded by his classmates on a rare trip home from Vancouver, where his is undergoing treatment for cancer. Steve Kidd/Western News

Schoolmates welcome home Penticton boy fighting cancer

Big welcome for seven-year-old battling cancer at Holy Cross School

Holy Cross School had some special visitors Tuesday, starting with a crew and a truck from Penticton’s Fire Department.

The second one wasn’t really a visitor — Wills Hodgkinson, a seven-year-old boy fighting a rare form of kidney cancer, dropped by the school to say hello to all the friends and classmates he’s been missing while undergoing treatment in Vancouver over the last few months.

Having undergone weeks of radiation and chemotherapy, Wills was understandably a little tired and a little shy about talking to a journalist, responding with just a quiet nod and “yes” when asked if it was good to be back at school.

He perked up, though, when describing walking into the school and seeing his friends waiting for him.

“Mr. Campbell (principal) was shocked to see me and then all the grade fives and sixes were standing waiting to see me,” said Wills. “Then they all surrounded me.”

Along with seeing his friends, Wills was able to play a little soccer and, of course, they all got a tour of the fire engine.

Over his time at B.C. Children’s Hospital, Wills has had a chance to see another fire engine and even drove one, but the young athlete isn’t changing his plans to be a firefighter.

“I’m going to be a soccer player,” said Wills.

Wills’ father Tim Hodgkinson was in attendance, along with his mother, Neely Brimer, and younger sister Scarlett. Tim explained Holy Cross School had laid on a bit of a homecoming for Wills after finding out he would be home for a bit.

The family, Tim said, was given a few days to return home in the lead up to surgery and increases in chemo and radiation.

Related: Ordeal intensifying for seven-year-old battling cancer

Wills was diagnosed with a Willms tumour, a rare form of kidney cancer, earlier this year. Surgery revealed a tumour on his kidney that was too large to be removed and had attached to his spleen, pancreas and colon. Doctors also discovered another eight cancers spots on Wills’ lungs.

Wills has been undergoing weeks of chemo and radiation therapy to shrink the tumour enough so surgeons can remove it and the kidney it is attached to. While there, some of those long days have been brightened by a visit from Brandon Neufeld, a school chum who is a year younger but also fighting cancer, and regularly travels to Vancouver for his treatments.

Wills (right) sits in the shade of the fire engine visiting Holy Cross School Tuesday with his dad Tim Hodgkinson. Steve Kidd/Western News

While Wills’ family has been with him constantly in Vancouver, Tim admits it’s not the same as having a chum visiting.

“Family can only do so much,” he said, talking about the bond that has developed between the two boys, who regularly exchange visits while undergoing chemo.

Wills’ and Brandon’s families are also both recipients of $1,000 gifts, money raised through a 24-hour paddle board relay a few weeks ago. The Monster & Sea 24, now in its fourth year, raised $154,000 this year in 24 cities, $6,000 at the Naramata paddle on April 14-15.

Related: Cancer fundraiser takes to Okanagan Lake

Paul and Denise Mend, along with fellow paddlers Issy Venables and Eileen Meehan, were on hand to present the cheques. Paul Mend said the money raised locally is distributed to local families dealing with cancer, and they are still looking for four more recipients.


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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