After successfully enduring more than three years of therapy for leukemia

Leukemia free and Disney bound for Saanich child

For Saanich’s Westhaver family, a trip to Disney World in Florida next year will mark a clean break from three years of stress and worry.

For Saanich’s Westhaver family, a trip to Disney World in Florida next year will mark a clean break from three years of all-encompassing stress and worry.

In March 5, 2009, just before Jack Westhaver’s sixth birthday, doctors diagnosed him with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. That day he was on a flight to B.C. Children’s hospital, a place that became his home away from home until last June, when his treatment successfully concluded.

On Tuesday, Westhavers helped kick off the Help Fill a Dream Foundation’s fundraiser in collaboration with the seven Country Grocer stores on Vancouver Island. The foundation is sending the family to Disney World and a Disney cruise next May.

“It’s not a journey we’ve made by choice,”said Mena Westhaver, Jack’s mom. “It’s been a long and bumpy road that affects every aspect of what the family does. What (Help Fill a Dream) is doing is hugely appreciated.”

Jack, now 9, selected the Disney trip, although when initially offered “anything in the world he wanted to do,” he opted to have the Canucks hockey team over for dinner, said Mena laughing. Unfortunately wrangling up professional hockey players wasn’t within the power of Help Fill a Dream.

“It’s surreal for a kid to be offered anything in the world. It was pretty funny,” Mena said.

“For Jack, the trip is a new start and catchup time for him too. He can start being a kid again.”

With three brothers – Jake, 6, Andy, 11 and Marty, 13 – Jack’s three-and-a-half years of treatment took its toll on the St. Joseph’s school student and his siblings.

Leukemia treatment weakened his immune system, which allowed limited contact with his brothers and friends. Through his Grade 1 year, he attended perhaps 10 days of school, although by Grade 3 he was up to nearly full-time.

“It’s like living in a bubble,” Mena said. “You have to think about illnesses, that he’s susceptible to viruses and had a low immune system. It’s a different lifestyle.”

Mena left her job with the District of Saanich to be in Vancouver at the Children’s Hospital, and his dad Norm, a Saanich firefighter, looked after the rest of the boys.

“The fire department is like another family,” Norm said. “Anything we needed, they were there. It’s a blessing to have that for sure.”

Victoria-based Help Fill a Dream helps 50 to 70 Vancouver Island families per year. Assistance can be a family vacation, but also emergency money and living expenses when family members suddenly have to relocate to Vancouver to be near the B.C. Children’s Hospital.

Country Grocer stores are donating proceeds from Christmas tree sales, flower bouquets and at-the-till donations (called paper T-shirts) until Dec. 15.

“We’re happy to be involved. Last year we raised more than $10,000. This year we hope to do a lot better,” said Peter Caven with Country Grocer. “Being able to help local families is great.”

“We have a company based on Vancouver Island helping an organization based on Vancouver Island, helping children and families from Vancouver Island,” said Denyse Koo, president of Help Fill a Dream. “This really is home-grown.”

For more on the Help Fill a Dream Foundation click here.

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

Leeroy Stagger to bring edgier new sound to the Capital Ballroom

Award-winning folk artist will highlight new album, Strange Path, at Oct. 20 show

Ginormous 10-foot dragon towers over Saanich yard

Artist Dan Iochelli spent seven years crafting the metal beast

Return of the undead: Victoria Zombie Walk hits the streets

Hundreds of zombies expected for annual event Oct. 26 in Centennial Square

Popular corn maze at North Saanich’s Pendray Farms out of operation

No Halloween-themed activities taking place this year at local farm

Investigation into cause of Saanich structure fire underway

The Friday morning fire left contents of the home ‘beyond repair,’ says a Saanich firefighter

VIDEO: Explosion, fire sends woman running from Saanich home

Heavy smoke in the area, crews on scene

Jack’s Devils beat Quinn’s Canucks 1-0 in NHL brother battle

New Jersey youngster scores first career goal against Vancouver

Two charged after owner’s wild ride through Kamloops in his stolen truck

Crystal Rae Dorrington, 37, and Derrick Ronald Pearson, 32, facing multiple charges

Judge orders credit union’s bank records for Kelowna social worker facing theft allegations

The man is accused of negligence, breach of contract, fraud and a conspiracy with Interior Savings

Leaders pour it on with rallies, boosts for candidates as campaign reaches peak

The federal election campaign has reached a crescendo

Allegations of racism lead to ministry investigation at Vancouver private school

St. George’s School was contacted over what the school describes as ‘deeply offensive behaviour online’

Not a political question: Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta

Edmonton police estimated the size of the crowd at about 4,000

Zantac, the over-the-counter heartburn drug, pulled in Canada, U.S.

Health Canada also investigates possible carcinogen in some ranitidine drugs

B.C. public safety minister says cannabis edibles not in stores til January

Mike Farnworth says he wants regional issues considered when it comes to licensing

Most Read