A little boy in the Fraser Valley needs your support — and your empty bottles.
Kaiden is only four years old, and a few weeks ago he and his family learned he has developed cancer in his throat. The kind of cancer he has, rhabdomyosarcoma, is progressive and quick. It has had him already in surgery, going into hospital for scans once a week to monitor his progress, and now planning a trip to Alberta for a new treatment option.
It all started with an earache, and a trip to Children’s Hospital for a second opinion. That’s where they found Kaiden had three tumours. While two were surgically removed, they quickly began to grow back, causing him trouble swallowing once again.
It’s been a lot for his family to take on, in a short time. His mom Brittany Panter is a single mom, who is still on maternity leave from her youngest child’s birth, a girl. Kaiden also has two brothers.
But the family is anything but alone. Thanks to the help of a good friend, they are being supported by a Fraser-Valley wide bottle drive. Rob Fitzgerald, the weekend host for Star 98.3 FM who is better known as Fitzy, has organized the drive and is getting the word out through every way imaginable. There are empty bottle drop-off spots in Chilliwack, Mission and Abbotsford set up for March 3, and there’s even a special drop off event at Prospera Centre, with performances by Trevor McDonald and Andrew Christopher.
Every little bit will help the family, as they currently are heading off to Calgary for a trial treatment. Brittany has to be with her son every step of the way, says Fitzy.
“Kaiden is also autistic so that adds a different element to it,” he says. “She needs to be with him. He doesn’t take too well to strangers, and so do the other kids. They need to be with her, too.”
Communication can be difficult, too.
“The last time I talked to Brittany, they were having quite a time,” Fitzy says. “He has a difficult time conveying pain, but he has been screaming in agony the last little bit, and they’re giving him morphine to deal with that. He is really struggling to be comfortable.”
The family is hoping the treatment awaiting him in Calgary will help. But, Brittany has already burned through her savings. A good friend of hers set up a GoFundMe account, which has raised about $900 toward a $10,000 goal. That caught the attention of someone who knew of Fitzy’s past efforts at his former stations in Edmonton where he worked, with a program called Empties for Angels.
He knew Kaiden and Brittany and the rest of the family were perfect. In a video he posted to Facebook after he met with them, the strong emotions he feels about helping this Fraser Valley family are obvious as he struggles to maintain composure.
“I can’t imagine what they are going through,” he says. “We’re not doctors, we’re not scientists, what we’re going to is do our part to help reduce the financial burden on the family … They’ve been through lots and have a long way to go.”
The family used to live in Chilliwack, but now live in Abbotsford so that Brittany, who works with special needs kids, could be closer to her job, Fitzy says. He’s hoping the entire Fraser Valley will pull together to help them, from Hope to Chilliwack, to Abbotsford to Mission.
And to help them pull together, they’ve set up drop off spots at Prospera Centre, Mission Raceway Park and Terry Fox elementary in Abbotsford, all on March 3. All of the drop off points will be running from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but Fitzy will be at the Chilliwack drop off, doing his weekend show for Star FM live from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with live performances from Trevor McDonald and Andrew Christopher.
The musicians are good friends, and Christopher’s daughter died from a childhood cancer several years ago. Both are happy to be spending their time sharing their musical talent to help out a local family going through cancer treatments.
“I’ll be there to help support a family in need as so many amazing people of our community did for my family when we needed it,” Christopher said.
Fitzy is hoping people will start saving up their empties now, and bring them to the closest drop off point. And for those who can’t drop off empties, there are volunteers willing to do pick ups.
People can also choose to donate through the GoFundMe page set up for the family.