Margie Hibbard has helped organize fundraising events for many years, but she’s never seen anything like what happened Sunday as hundreds gathered to raise funds for little Wills Hodgkinson, 7, and his family.
Wills is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment in Vancouver after being diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in his kidney.
Sunday’s fundraiser was held at the Adidas Sportsplex in Penticton.
Hibbard and good friend Tricia Hernes decided a month ago to hold a fundraiser to help out Wills and his family, Hibbard’s son Connor has been best friends with Wills since pre-school and Hernes’ has a child in the same Grade 2 class as Wills.
Wills, who lives in Naramata, is a Grade 2 student at Holy Cross school in Penticton.
Hibbard estimated more than 500 people showed up at Sunday’s event that included a huge silent auction, bake sale, games for the kids, soccer lessons and much more.
Hibbard was overwhelmed by the response.
“This is just amazing, awesome, spectacular,” she said. “It was more than I ever imagined and was way beyond all expectations.
“I’ve always known Penticton is a giving community as I’ve been involved with JCI (Junior Chamber International) fundraising events for many, many years and this has easily been the most overwhelming response to any event I’ve ever been involved with.”
There were more than 100 items donated by Penticton and area business owners, which is incredible considering this event was organized in just over three weeks, she said.
Half of the proceeds from the bake sale will go to Wills’ family and the other half to another young Penticton boy who was recently diagnosed with cancer, she said.
All of the proceeds from the silent auction will be turned over to Wills’ parents, she said.
Wills’ grandmother Dee McDonald, was also overwhelmed by the response from the community at Sunday’s fundraiser.
“I’ve spent most of my time since Wills got sick in Vancouver and I really didn’t have much to do with organizing this event, but I simply can’t believe the response,” she said. “I’m sort of overwhelmed to see this many people come out.”
Wills is undergoing weekly chemotherapy treatment to try and reduce a large tumour that has not only affected his kidneys, but three other organs, she said.
“The main focus right now is to reduce the tumour so it doesn’t affect those three other organs,” she said.
Wills understands that he’s sick and getting better is going to take some time, but he’s a fighter and has been remarkably resilient, she said.
“He has some good days and some bad days, but overall he’s doing as well as can be expected,” she said.
Her son and Wills’ mother really appreciate what’s being done for their son and won’t ever forget it, she said.
“They really appreciate everything people are doing to try and help,” she said.
McDonald said she will be returning to Vancouver some time this week and will continue spending most of her time being by Wills’ side until he recovers from treatment.
Jason Wood, who is one of Tim’s best friends, said it was heartwarming to see the community response and support at Sunday’s event.
“Penticton is always a community that comes together to help out people in need, but the response today was more than I ever expected,” he said.
Wood is a firefighter in Delta, but lives in Penticton and commutes to the Lower Mainland for work. He’s looking forward to telling Wills and his parents about the great response to the fundraiser when he returns to work later this week.
Wills has a long road to recovery ahead of him, but he’s a fighter and he and his parents will continue to do everything necessary to ensure he wins his battle against cancer, said Wood.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to assist Wills and his family. Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so at 7 Year Old Wills Set to Fight Cancer.