Photo courtesy of Cher Myers | Oak Ridge resident Cher Myers sent this picture of her son celebrating his eighth birthday last week with a neighborhood parade led by members of Oak Ridge Fire Department.
Photo courtesy of the Van Kemp family | Johnny Van Kemp, 16, has been battling leukemia since 2012, when he was first diagnosed while in third grade at Summerfield Elementary School. Now a student at Northern Guilford High School, Johnny is shown here sitting outside his Summerfield home petting a stray cat that his family has “kind of” adopted, according to his dad. “Johnny has many ‘gifts’ in life – a huge heart, his caring for others, his courage and inner strength, and so many more qualities, but one that we also admire is his incredibly gentle ways with animals. We used to call him our ‘dog whisperer’ with our dog Rosie, but he also has the same soothing effect on cats, horses, and well, all animals,” Johnny’s dad, John Van Kemp, wrote earlier this week on the family’s CaringBridge page.
I want to thank the Oak Ridge Fire Department for something they did recently for my son. On a moment's notice, they took time out of their busy schedule (on a Saturday) to come to my neighborhood and lead a parade of vehicles for his eighth birthday. He has a pre-existing health condition and literally hasn't been off our property since the last day of school in March. I think he thought his birthday was going to be pretty boring. Instead, he told me, "Mom, this has been the best birthday ever!"
Thank you so much, Oak Ridge Fire Department - what a wonderful and selfless act of kindness!
Cher Myers, OAK RIDGE
'It takes a village'
In a recent issue of the Northwest Observer an amazing, anonymous individual put out a heartwarming "grin" about the 8-year anniversary of our "Iron Man," Johnny, first being diagnosed with leukemia. The "grin" not only touched our hearts, but it also reminded us to finally get around to thanking the incredible friends, neighbors, church family, schools and so many others who we are blessed with in Summerfield, Oak Ridge and other nearby towns.
To state the incredible obvious, our family was crushed to its core when in 2012 we first heard these words in a small Brenner Children's Hospital waiting room: "I am so sorry, it's leukemia." Never for a moment did we fully comprehend the enormity of those words and of the nightmare our 8-year-old Johnny was about to endure. And certainly none of us ever considered for a moment that eight years later, at 16 years old, Johnny's battle would still be ongoing.
Johnny is doing great, is in full remission, and is working hard to live life to the fullest to make up for the many things this battle has stolen from him. He inspires us every second of every day with his courage and determination, and has an inner strength that could move a mountain. He is the toughest person we have ever met - and oh yes, he just happens to be our son.
Most inspiring, however, is Johnny's unwavering faith in God, a faith that has carried him from the very beginning and will carry him for the rest of his life.
In the fog of those first moments back in 2012 when the oncologist first told us of the horrible world we were about to enter, he cited the African proverb, "It takes a village," and told us we should be open to support from everyone and anyone because we were going to need so much from so many.
Little did we know how visionary that oncologist was, as our family has been blessed with incredible love and support from the principals and teachers of Summerfield Elementary, Northern Middle and Northern High Schools, Summerfield Fire Department, our loving church family at Oak Ridge United Methodist, the Summerfield Recreation Association, Patti Stokes and the Northwest Observer, local businesses, friends and neighbors, people we have never met and well, a "village" that God had surrounded us with.
In short, that oncologist was right - "It takes a village!"
God bless all of you, and from the bottom of our hearts, we offer our deepest gratitude and appreciation for your caring and support!