Forest Grove boy a Children's Cancer Association 'Hero'
A Forest Grove boy is being recognized for his bravery in battling something no kid should ever have to: cancer.
Weston Epler was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia last year at age 4.
This year, he has been named one of the Children's Cancer Association Heroes for his fight to end the disease.
Weston is one of 11 children and teens recognized by the association for their "exceptional courage, wisdom and grace in the face of serious medical challenges," said Children's Cancer Association spokeswoman Whitney Wilhardt.
The children were publicly celebrated at OMSI on Tuesday, May 29, with a medal award ceremony and dove release.
Weston's mother, Julianne Epler, said her son doesn't realize just how brave he is. She said the recognition is very meaningful for their family.
"He just thinks that this (disease) is something normal, like a part of his life," she said. "It means a lot. It's nice for other people to see the journey he's been on and the challenges he has faced."
Through the CCA, Weston is part of the "Chemo Pal" program, which pairs children battling cancer with local volunteers, who make hospital visits to play with the children and put a smile on their faces, even in their darkest days.
About 10 months ago, Weston was matched with his "Chemo Pal" Sierra Smith who said her experience getting to know Weston has changed her life.
"He, in all ways, is a very typical boy, and I think his parents have done an amazing job of really keeping that going," Smith said. "Weston still plays on his soccer team and he goes to swimming lessons. He's really fun-loving and he always has a smile on his face."
Smith said her job as a "Chemo Pal" is just to have fun with Weston and play games, making his hard days a little easier.
"I've visited a lot when he was an in-patient, and when he just goes to his check ups and I have never seen Weston cry, believe it or not," she said. "He's very brave. I have never seen a tear out of that kid's eyes."
It is no surprise to Smith that Weston was chosen as one of the heroes, she said. Even through painful days, she said, he never lets cancer stop him from being a kid.
"He's just a true kid, and I think that's what's so fun about him and what's so important to remember about these guys, and probably what makes him a hero," she said. "He is just a little 5-year-old boy, but he's facing this really big, adult, grown-up battle and facing it with grace and bravery. And he's my hero for that."
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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