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School rallies around boy fighting cancer

Posted on 18/06/2009 12:00am

By Amy Dove - Goldstream News Gazette

Published: June 18, 2009

First and foremost, Matt Williams is a sports trivia expert and athlete, an AC/DC fan and full of life. He is also battling leukemia.

On June 9 he pitched seven innings of a baseball game. On June 10, the 11-year-old Happy Valley elementary student was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). He was airlifted to BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver that night.

He will be there for a minimum of six months to undergo chemo and radiation therapy, said his aunt Julie Ross.

The school and community are rallying for Matt and his family through fundraisers. Both parents have taken time off work to be with Matt in Vancouver, Ross said.

A series of events are being planned, starting with a barbecue at Happy Valley school June 15 that raised $5,000.

"(The family) just can't believe the generosity of everybody, and how much their son is loved," Ross said.

The school is dealing with Matt's illness "straight up," said principal Brian Belcher. There was no sugar coating as students were told what Matt is fighting and how he is doing. A counsellor is available for students and staff.

"It's cancer and unfortunately there is too much of it," Belcher said. "I never thought I would say this, but I wish Matt was here to interrupt me during math class."

ALL is a cancer of blood and bone marrow and is the most common cancer in children, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

The community response for Matt and the Williams family has been amazing, Belcher said. After the fundraiser was announced on the radio, people from as far away as Sannichton came to the school to drop off money. Students were also quick to donate and round up money, he said.

Helping Matt is important, but it's also a valuable lesson for the students to see that what they give in life, they get back, Belcher said.

"It's good for them to learn charity and what it's like to help people," added PAC president Val Creed.

Donations can be made at VanCity, branch 69, account number 470450 and must be made out to "Matthew Williams in trust."

Information on future fundraising for the Williams family can be found at the Facebook group "Get Well Soon Matt Williams."

reporter@goldstreamgazette.com