‘He was a fighter:’ Family lives dream after losing son to cancer

Posted at 12:06 AM, Feb 07, 2016

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A local non-profit group known for distributing care packages to children with cancer in West Michigan, is giving the ultimate care package to a Kalamazoo family after losing their son to cancer.

9-year-old Simon Cooper was a student at Winchell Elementary School in Kalamazoo. He loved everything about school, from his friends to teachers.

"Simon was full of life, he was very curious, very joyful playful, and a gentle soul," said Odina Cooper, Simon's mother.

After Simon began to experience flu-like symptoms, his family became concerned.  Simon was brought to Bronson's emergency room. It would be here where family would receive a diagnosis that would change their entire lives.

"The lead doctor said to us his white blood cell count was very high. They were 99 percent certain it was leukemia," said Michael Cooper, Simon's father. "It was a devastating blow, it came out of the blue. There is no genetic factors that play into this."

Simon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Following the first series of chemotherapy, Simon's cancer went into remission.

"You have to be strong, so that they can try to be strong. But how he (Simon) handled it at 9-years-old, there are only a few amount of times where he truly broke down. He dealt with this treatment head on," said Michael.

The Make-A-Wish foundation granted the Cooper family an opportunity to fulfill Simon's dream, to visit Disney's Aulani Resort & Spa in Hawaii. But that dream would never come true, Simon passed away on November 5, 2015 following a 10 month battle with cancer.

After being by the family's side since the early stages of Simon's cancer, a local non-profit group knew something had to be done.

DC Strong is a non-profit organization serving Southwestern Michigan.  The group raises money by fundraising,  donations, and selling merchandise online. With the money the organization has raised, the group surprised the Cooper family by sending them on Simon's dream vacation to Hawaii.

"We wanted so badly for them to be able to go to Hawaii and do something like that. To be able to turn that around and send them on the trip that he (Simon) was  suppose to go on is something that we've wanted to do for a very long time," said  Dustan Colyer from the DC Strong organization.

"None of us were really prepared at all, we weren't even thinking about it. All we could be was grateful and thankful for the thoughtfulness and the opportunity," said Michael.

The Cooper family considers the DC Strong organization, now part of their family.

"One of the happiest days at the end of Simon's life was when they (the DC Strong group) came to give him a care package of gifts and Simon was just beaming with joy that day and said it was the best day ever and that's one of that happiest memories I have of his life," said Odina.

The Cooper family is working with Winchell Elementary School to create a playground in Simon's honor.

A Go Fund Me page has been set up to help the Cooper family with the loss of Simon.