FARMINGTON — What started as a family’s loss has led to a journey to help others who are going through the same thing.
On July 28, 2010, Walker Johns was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and began undergoing chemotherapy two days later. In March, 2011, he received a bone marrow transplant from his sister, Zoe, as part of his treatment for ALL. A group of students, parents and teachers gathered the morning of his surgery to remember those who were also going through bone marrow transplants.
One night while Walker was in ICU battling an infection his mom Kelly Johns posted on Facebook “A Knight Fights with all his Might.”
Another parent Kerrie Boyer, whose daughter has been friends with Walker since they were young saw the post and wrote it down. The next morning she wrote a story based on the saying from Kelly.
Boyer wrote a children’s book about Walker Johns called “A Knight Fights” in one day.
“It’s a story inspired by Walker Johns. He was a 14-year-old boy who was larger than life and whose battle with leukemia inspired a community. This book is about overcoming self-doubt and fear when faced with adversity and how a child taught a small Missouri town what it means to be strong and never lose hope,” said Boyer.
She talked to another parent the same day, Julie Kleppe at the Jefferson Elementary Parent Teacher Group meeting and was telling her about the book. Julie said her husband, Kory may be able to draw the pictures for her.
Boyer said later that night her phone “dinged” and she had a picture of a knight Kory Kleppe had drawn.
“He hadn’t seen the story yet. He only knew what Julie told him, and when I saw what he had drawn I knew instantly that’s what I was looking for,” said Boyer.
“The image just came into my head and I just drew it. I didn’t have trouble with any of them but the last one. When I sat down to sketch I knew what to draw. It was like something was there. When I look at the pictures, it’s hard to think I drew them,” Kory said.
Kory says he is not an artist and doesn’t teach drawing. “I don’t draw much anymore. When I was in high school I used to illustrate the high school yearbook.”
Boyer and Kory worked on the book throughout Christmas break with a program called Instant Publisher.
After they finished the book and knew the book was what they wanted, they talked to Kelly about it.
“It fit him to a T. It’s basically his story,” said Kelly.
The first copy of the book was dedicated to the Farmington Middle School as a thank you to the staff in appreciation for their support.
After Walker lost his long and difficult 15-month battle on Nov. 3, 2011, Kelly wanted to do something to help others who are going through the same thing her family went through. When Walker was in the hospital she said there wasn’t much for him to do. She said there were therapy dogs who came in and video games but that wasn’t anything he was interested in.
“If you’re not a techy kid or interested in pet therapy there’s not much for you,” Kelly said. “If you don’t have things to keep you busy or occupied while you’re hospitalized it makes for a long time. There needs to be resources to help families around the area because right now there aren’t any.”
Kelly and her family have established the Walker Johns Childhood Cancer Foundation to help families get the resources they need. In creating the foundation, Walker’s family desire was to benefit local children, from birth to 18 years of age, in their battle with cancer.
Proceeds from “A Knight Fights” will go to the foundation set up to help others.
The paperback version of the book is $15 and the hardback version is $25.
Their first fundraiser was the second annual Walk, Run and Ride for Walker which raised $18,000 this year.
The event held on April 21 went to help four area families whose children are battling cancer. In 2011 the event was held to help the Johns’ family with his medical expenses.
According to his mother, Walker’s ambition was always to be a Farmington Knights football player. He was a loving and compassionate young man and enjoyed his special friends. He mostly enjoyed hanging out with his dad on the football field. He was raised around Farmington Knights football from daddy’s arms to becoming a waterboy.
Walker will be recognized during one of the Farmington home football games during the season and the district is also working with Walker’s family to build a new press box on the home side of the football stadium in his name.
He could tell you every player’s name, number and position as the plays were run. He also loved playing baseball and basketball.
To purchase “A Knight Fights,” you can go to Jennie Annie’s or Oasis Christian Bookstore in Farmington.
The foundation is looking for other businesses to carry the books as well. For more information contact Kelly Johns at 573-760-4496.
Members of the Walker Johns Childhood Cancer Foundation will have copies of the book for sale at Wilson Rozier baseball field Monday and during the Walker night at Farmington High School.
A Facebook page is in the works for the Walker Johns Childhood Cancer Foundation and the foundation is also working on a website to offer resource information and support for families going through cancer.
Kelly hopes to have a website up and running soon for families to use as a resource and offer a chat to talk to others about the situations other families are going through. She said those opportunities weren’t there for her family and the area needs something like this.
Maridee Lawson is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 756-8927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.