Magical weekend for Wills

It took months to plan and organize, but a huge surprise organized for 7-year-old Penticton cancer patient Wills Hodgkinson by his teacher and his father went off without a hitch.

Wills' entire Grade 2 class from Holy Cross Elementary, his older friend and fellow cancer patient Brandon Neufeld, plus 15 parents and his teacher piled into a school bus and drove down to Vancouver this weekend.

At the time the trip was being organized, Wills' father thought his son would still be an inpatient at Vancouver Children's Hospital. But Wills had amazing results following surgery, and though he is not yet out of the woods, he got to come home. So, they decided to let Wills in on the surprise last week.

"What we did was we told Wills and we let him go into class on Tuesday and he broke the news to the class," said Tim Hodgkinson, Wills' father. "The whole week, the kids were just getting more and more excited."

On Friday morning, the bus headed straight to Vancouver's Ronald McDonald House, where Wills, his father and a free lunch donated by McDonalds were waiting. 

Then, a game of kids-versus-adults soccer in the back yard — along with special guest player Erik Hurtado of the Vancouver Whitecaps.

"I think the kids won actually," Hodgkinson laughed.

Next up was a sleepover with the sea lions at the Vancouver Aquarium, and a private behind-the-scenes tour of the facilities in the morning.

Then, off to BC Place to watch the Whitecaps trounce Orlando City 5-2 — plus all the kids got to meet Spike, the mascot.

After a jam-packed day and a half, the bus headed home.

"It was really the trip of a lifetime," Hodgkinson said. "For everyone to give their time up like that was really special. From the feedback I've had, it was really special for everyone else too."

Wills still periodically needs to go back to Vancouver for treatment, but for the most part he's back in Penticton.

He'll definitely be back in Vancouver on July 7, though, when he gets to be "captain for the game" and walk on the field with the Whitecaps. 

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