Students at Fort St. James Secondary School (FSJSS) miss a certain Prince, and they are rallying for his return.
Marcel Prince, a student at FSJSS with Down Syndrome, already faced challenges everyday with Down Syndrome, but he was recently medevaced to Vancouver and diagnosed with leukaemia.
Prince has been hospitalized ever since but his classmates have felt his absence and decided to do something about it.
Specifically, Marti Wiltse, who has art class with Prince and had peer tutored Prince last year in gym class, wanted to do something special for him.
“I cried so hard when I found out,” she said. “It’s really lonely in art class.”
Last year, Wiltse had made Prince cupcakes on his birthday, but this called for more than baking.
So Wiltse started a Facebook campaign to have Prince’s favourite team, the Vancouver Canucks, visit Prince in the hospital.
Within less than a week, the page had more than 942 likes, Prince was visited by members of the BC Lions team and Canucks players Daniel Sedin and Kevin Bieksa.
“I didn’t even think it would make it anywhere near 1,000 likes,” said Wiltse of the the page’s success. “I thought it would be mostly our town showing support.”
Originally, Wiltse was planning on encouraging the Canucks to visit Prince using a video the student would film of messages of support for their schoolmate.
However, the film had not even been completed when the visits took place.
But this has not deterred Wiltse from the original plan, and last week at a school-wide assembly with students wearing as much Canucks colours and as many jerseys as they had, the entire school held signs and chanted “Go Marcel Go” for the video. Wiltse also led the students in a bleacher wave for good measure.
The video will be sent down with family for Prince when it is done.
Another friend who misses Prince and wanted to do something for him was Brent Thomas.
Thomas, who has known Prince since Kindergarten, got a Falcons sweater for Prince and spent time at a table in the school hallway having students sign their names and write messages of support on it for Prince.
For each signature, Thomas was donating one dollar to the family as well.
Students and teachers were encouraged to donate when they signed, and Thomas, with his friend Gage Sam also helping, had gathered over 170 signatures when he spoke to The Courier.
“I hope he comes back,” said Thomas of his friend. “He’s a really awesome kid.”
Some of the messages others had written on the sweatshirt were: “Never give up,” “we know you can do it,” “stay strong,” and “get well soon.”
Teacher Gretchen Vogelsang said the staff at the school are impressed with the work the students are doing and with “the power of youth.”
“It just all these young people coming together for another young person and nobody said ‘Go do that,’ they just did that on their own,” said Vogelsang. “I was just proud of the kids, we all are.”
Nakazdli also held a fundraiser loonie auction and spaghetti or chilli lunch for Prince’s family, raising nearly $2,000 at the lunch alone.