Hope, Strength, and Healing for families coping with a child cancer diagnosis

A Special Wish Granted ~ Paul’s Puppy

Meet 13-year-old Paul, a gaming and sports-loving kiddo. At just 8 years old, in July of 2017, Paul and his family entered an unforeseen journey. He was unfortunately diagnosed with Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma (JPA), a rare childhood brain tumor. After completing treatment, Paul was fortunately in remission for three whole years, before sadly relapsing on October 6, 2020. After a few months of treatment, the Keaton’s team had the pleasure of connecting with Paul’s family in March of 2021 and has been growing a strong bond with them ever since.

From March 10, 2021, to this day, Keaton’s has provided this resilient family with multiple special touches, including financial and joy-filled experiences. A child’s cancer diagnosis has the ability to change so many aspects of a family’s day-to-day life. Treatment for Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma, as well as treatments for other diagnoses, can be extremely demanding of time, energy, and support.

Under Paul’s treatment plan, he is traveling two hours roundtrip to his treatment hospital once a week. As his loving parent, his mom Jonisha has strived to find a balance between taking Paul to appointments, working, and keeping the household in order. Jonisha works long nights to be able to make payments for rent, take Paul to his appointments and his siblings to school, and keep up with other necessary errands throughout the day. She is a true rock star for finding a balance in her journey! To relieve some stress and support this family as much as possible, Keaton’s provided the family with a financial grant, as well as gas and food cards to aid with the cost of travel and other needs.

With three younger super siblings in the household, Paul has the best team cheering him on throughout his strenuous journey! While a child’s cancer diagnosis can create different experiences for each member of the family, our team of Family Navigators and volunteers personalized a Hope Chest for Paul and each of his siblings. With Keaton’s, the joy doesn’t end with a Hope Chest. Paul and his family most recently participated in Keaton’s Holiday Adopt-A-Family Program. This year, Paul’s special wish for the holiday was one for the books! Jonisha shared that Paul wanted a bike, followed by the unique wish for a puppy! The Family Navigator team could not and would not turn this special wish down and our team immediately identified an awesome team of sponsors to match with Paul’s family. Being such a generous group, Paul’s family’s sponsors’ purchased gifts for the family to help bring joy and happiness to their holidays.

Uniquely, one of the members associated with the family’s sponsor group, Irene, had her own special connection to Keaton’s and childhood cancer. The sibling of Juan, a Keaton’s Angel – Forever 11 years old, Irene used her family’s past experience as a way to give back to other children and families who are going through their own battle. Juan, Irene, and their family were referred to Keaton’s in 2013 after Juan was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a brain tumor that starts in the lower part of the brain, called the Cerebellum. While building a meaningful relationship with Juan’s family, they were invited to participate in our Holiday Adopt-A-Family Program in both 2013 and 2014. This brought the family so much joy and love throughout the holidays and alleviated some stress during such a difficult time. Shortly after participating in the 2014 Adopt-A-Family Program, Juan gained his angel wings at the young age of 11 years old on March 13, 2015. Now his family holds on to the happy memories they made with him and have occasionally kept in touch with Keaton’s over the years.

Six years after Juan gained his angel wings, his sister Irene, now a bright young adult, reached out to Keaton’s in hopes of giving back to a community that she has the biggest heart for. After the support she and her family experienced during the holidays, she felt drawn to providing the same love and comfort for another family during the 2021 Holiday Adopt-A-Family Program. Understanding Irene’s journey, the Family Navigator team knew she would be the perfect match for Paul and his sweet family. Amazingly, Irene and her place of work had a connection to the SPCA. Thanks to this partnership, our community came together to fulfill Paul’s hope for a puppy!

After much collaboration, Keaton’s coordinated a time for Paul and his family to meet their soon-to-be companion, and coincidentally, it was just five days before Paul’s 13th Birthday! While this special gift would be a surprise for Paul and his siblings, Jonisha led her kids to believe they were stopping at the SPCA after Paul’s clinic appointment because her friend’s dog was sick and needed her there for support. They were led to a room where the puppy and sponsors were waiting patiently with excitement. Soon after, Paul and his siblings got to meet their new puppy. After having a blast playing with the feisty puppy, Irene and fellow sponsors shared the exciting news that the puppy was theirs to keep. The kids’ faces lit up with smiles and they immediately started brainstorming names for him, ultimately deciding on Roscoe. Spunky little Roscoe found his new forever family and was sent home with a bed, toys, food, and a whole lot of love, thanks to Paul’s amazing sponsors.

Weeks later, after the holidays passed, the Family Navigator team reconnected with Paul’s family to follow up on Paul’s treatment, his 13th birthday, the holidays, and the newest member of their family. Jonisha shared that although Paul doesn’t enjoy receiving treatment because of how tiring it is on his body, he is doing his best and will actually have an upcoming break from it soon! With becoming a new teen and having so much to emotionally and physically process at such a young age, Jonisha let the team know that she rarely sees her son smile anymore. Because of that, she is forever grateful for the day they met Roscoe at the animal shelter. That is one of the few times she saw her son smile. Now Paul is finding joy in playing with Roscoe and teaching him a lot of new tricks!

With Paul’s special wish being fulfilled by the sibling of a child who lost their brother to cancer, it shows just how much the idea of community and alliance is embraced at Keaton’s. It has been an honor to watch the families we support, also support one another because no one understands the trials and tribulations of a pediatric cancer journey better than those who have already lived it or are still living it. Our team at Keaton’s sends a special THANK YOU to the teams at Bellwood Investments and Sacramento SPCA for making this special wish come true for Paul and his loving family. We look forward to continuing partnerships with members of our community as future opportunities arise to make a difference in the lives of families as they endure their pediatric cancer journey.

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