After successfully enduring more than three years of therapy for leukemia

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

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An aerial view over Oak Bay. (Black Press Media File Photo)
An aerial view over Oak Bay and the Marina. Oak Bay residents pay the highest taxes on Vancouver Island. Don Denton/Black Press
Oak Bay secondary suites study considers units old and new

Secondary suites draft report due in new year

Itty, a Siamese cat, has been missing since a house fire in Victoria’s Fernwood neighbourhood on Friday, Nov. 27. Her owner says she has white fur with blonde and grey markings. (Facebook/ROAM)
Cat goes missing after house fire in Fernwood neighbourhood

‘Itty’ has white fur, blonde and grey markings and blue eyes

Island Health has confirmed the first long term care facility outbreak in Greater Victoria at Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich. (Google Maps)
Island Health records first long-term care COVID outbreak in Greater Victoria

Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich confirms one positive staff member

Westcoast Impressions plans to organize a COVID-19 friendly version of the event in 2021 at the Mary Winspear Centre after having cancelled the 2020 version against the backdrop of pandemic. The opening night of the 2019 Sidney Street Market featured more than 150 vendors lined along Beacon Avenue. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney Street Market plans for 2021 return at Mary Winspear Centre

Tentative plan calls for the event’s return to Beacon Avenue after COVID-19 pandemic

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

Most Read