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Camping Wish Comes True

Posted on 05/07/2009 12:00am

Camping wish comes true
Sooke boy, 7, with leukemia Alberta-bound
Ann Hui, Time Colonist
Published: Sunday, July 05, 2009

Joel Dorval plops a glass jar on the table triumphantly. Inside is his treasure, a big, fat, juicy slug. Seven-year old Joel loves bugs and the great outdoors so much that when he was first diagnosed with leukemia more than a year and a half ago, he spent his first days in hospital asking to go camping.

Thanks to Help Fill a Dream Foundation and the Telus Community Ambassadors, Joel's dream -- to go with his family on a two-week camping trip to Edmonton -- is about to be fulfilled.

The Dorval family was recently surprised with a limo ride from their home in Sooke to Tulista Park in Sidney, where a rental RV, camping gear and gifts for the August trip were revealed to Joel and the family.

"It was wicked," he said.

In October 2007 -- just a month into Grade 1 -- Joel developed lumps on both sides of his neck, but was told that it was just mono. A few days later, when a third lump developed by his temple, Michelle, Joel's mother, took him to a different doctor.

"There's something wrong with him. I know it. I feel it," Joel Sr., Joel's dad, remembers her saying.

This time, the doctor immediately sent Joel to have his blood tested. He was diagnosed with leukemia the same day.

Since that day, the family has struggled to adjust to Joel's illness. Aside from Joel, the Dorval family includes four daughters -- Jessica, 5, Kaylee, 12, Kaleena, 13, and Ashley, 17.

Michelle gave up her job as a daycare provider as the couple struggled to care for their sick son -- including frequent trips to B.C. Children's Hospital in Vancouver -- without neglecting the other four children.

Joel's cancer is considered "high-risk leukemia," Joel Sr. explained, meaning that it's more difficult to treat than other types of leukemia. Joel has now completed more than seven months of chemotherapy and is doing well, although he's still on a variety of medications. He's expected to finish treatment in February 2011.

Throughout his chemotherapy, Joel continued to talk about camping.

A hospital worker mentioned the Help Fill a Dream program, and asked Joel what his dream was. His immediate answer was camping.

"Most kids ask to go to Disneyland," Joel Sr. said, "but Joel likes fishing and bugs and camping." Asked what he liked about camping, Joel poked at his slug with a stick and shrugged.

"I just like wood bugs, spiders, worms and stuff," he said with a smile.

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2009