GILFORD — Students and staff members at Gilford Elementary gathered outside the school yesterday afternoon to watch 6-year-old John Bradley Thompson and his family leave in a stretch limousine for a flight that will take them to the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia.
John, a first grader who was diagnosed earlier this year with an inoperable brain tumor, is making a week-long trip with his family thanks to the Make A Wish foundation, which grants wishes of children with life-threatening conditions.
The son of Jesse and Alison Thompson, John was hoisted atop the limousine by his father near the end of the ceremony, where he waved to his fellow students, many of whom held signs wishing him well and expressing their support for him in his struggle with the rare form of cancer.
''The community and the school have all been so great, so supportive,'' said his has grandmother, Darryl Thompson, as the limousine pulled out of the driveway at the school.
The Thompson family is very familiar with the Make a Wish Foundation, having donated nearly $3,000 to the organization in April of 2012 when Jesse appeared on the Wheel of Fortune television game show and held a party at the Lyons Den restaurant in Glendale for invited guests the night it was aired.
John was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) on June 2 this year after being taken by his parents to the emergency room at Boston Children's Hospital after experiencing double vision and dizziness and reaching the point where he was unable to lift his chin off his chest. An MRI revealed a large, aggressive tumor his brain stem.
A brain biopsy was taken to obtain tissue samples and on June 13 John traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to join a Phase I Trial Study at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. He received six weeks of radiation treatment, started daily chemotherapy and returned home to Gilford on August 1. He is enrolled in an experimental chemotherapy clinical trial at St. Jude and returns there frequently for tests. Only 150 cases are of DIPG are diagnosed each year, making it so rare that there is no federal funding for research.
A web site, Think John Bradley, provides updates on his condition A sports fan who is passionate about his artwork, John has two little sisters, Clara (4 years old) and Elizabeth (7 months) and a big yellow dog named Jackson.
Family members say that John has been feeling good, hanging out with his friends and checks daily on his blog, where he has been reading the comments and absorbing positive vibes.
A fund known as the JB Thompson Fund has been set up to accept donations from the fundraisers which are being held in the community for John. Two two are coming up in the near future, JBT Night at Patrick's Pub & Eatery on Tuesday, October 15 from 4 p.m. to close where 50 percent of the food portion of the checks will be donated, and The Cure Starts Now at Gunstock Mountain Resort on Saturday, October 26. The evening will feature a meal, a program, a live auction and dancing to local favorite Paul Warnick and Phil 'n the Blanks.