Winnebago boy battling cancer receives holiday visit from classmates
Winnebago, Ill. (WIFR) - “We love you Aiden”
About a dozen 7th graders from Pecatonica Middle School loaded the bus during the middle of the day. “So the Superintendent said, ‘Sure go take a field trip’. Anything to support Aiden,” said Pecatonica Middle School Special Education Teacher Lisa Jurkovic.
But this was less a field trip as it was a feel good trip. “My friends are coming today,” said 13 year old Aiden Doner. “How does that make you feel? Better.”
If anyone deserves to feel better this holiday season it’s Aiden. “Aiden is going through cancer again,” said Aiden’s mom Nichole Doner. “This is his third time battling since he was an infant. So this has kind of been the entire 13-year journey with him and all he’s known.”
Aiden’s latest diagnosis came in September; just a few months shy of ten years being cancer free from a brain tumor Aiden suffered just before his fourth birthday.
“He is an inspiration for sure for all of us,” said Nichole. .
This time it was a mass in his kidney, leaving Aiden with one partial kidney. The other was removed after suffering renal cancer as an infant.
“Aiden is, he’s kind of like an old soul,” said Nichole. “He loves life and always has a smile on his face. He embraces every day no matter what’s being thrown at him.”
The challenges of bi-weekly trips to Milwaukee, and struggles with treatments are heightened by the pandemic. “It’s isolated us even more too from the friends and family and the support,” said Nichole.
That’s where Aiden’s school came in to play, with a special holiday bus trip to Aiden’s Winnebago home. “The school has been such a huge support,” said Nichole. “They’ve walked this journey with us many times and they wanted to come out and bring joy to our house.”
“You could see the camaraderie the way that the whole district comes together,” Jurkovic. “So I think he really needed this pick me up. I know we did.”
Last week the school had ‘Aiden Day’, where everyone dressed in green and brought dinosaurs.
“He’s the biggest dinosaur fan in the World,” said classmate Tommy Sparkman.
On Monday, the kids pulled up to Aiden’s house to exchange elbow bumps, and drop off cards and presents; including a dinosaur egg that you can excivate.
“We’ve been making posters and coloring all day,” said Sparkman, who has been in the same class with Aiden since kindergarten. “We just been best buds ever since we met.”
And tommy knew this December field trip was going to be something special. “What’s one message we wanted to get to Aiden today? We miss you,” said Sparkman.
And I think it’s safe to say the feeling was mutual. Aiden has been literally counting down the days for two weeks for this reunion with his friends. “Each day that’s like our tradition in the morning we put like an X on every day and he counts how close the day is coming,” said Nichole. “This morning he was up at four thirty. He’s just estatic about this day coming.”
Perhaps 7th grader Johnny Sell summed it up best explaining how this short trip from school would have such a long lasting impact on this courageous boy’s life. “It makes my heart feel good, helping Aiden out like with the pandemic,” said Sell. “I just hope he has a Merry Christmas”
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