CABOT, Ark. (KTHV) -- Seven years ago, a Cabot family buried their 15-year-old son. His life was taken by cancer way too early, but was honored Tuesday during a bone marrow drive and more at the Veteran's Community Center in town.
That boy was Dakota Hawkins. He died after a hard-fought battle with leukemia back in 2006. THV 11 followed his story closely during his struggles, including a trip to Israel for experimental treatment.
Melissa Barry spent part of her Tuesday at the bone marrow drive in Cabot. She gave a swab in honor of an old friend.
"In my 9th grade year at Cabot Jr. High, he was a 7th grader, and we had a lot of the same friends. That was a really good year for him, and I just remember how nice he was," Melissa Barry said.
Diagnosed with an adult form of leukemia at 11 years old, Dakota had two bone marrow transplants during his battle with cancer. In both cases, his younger brother Riley was the match. But at 15 years old, the cancer proved too much.
"He touched so many people that seven years later, we can all take ten minutes out of our day and come out and just honor his memory," Barry said.
"We've seen so many blessings out of today, so many," Sharon Hawkins said.
Dakota's mother Sharon Hawkins was part of the crowd all day Tuesday at the Veteran's Community Center.
She said that some 300 people gave bone marrow samples and kids were helping, too. They were bringing pennies collected to support the Keep the Faith Foundation, a Cabot non-profit founded in memory of Dakota. It helps families pay the bills while caring for kids with cancer.
"When you lose a child, you don't want your child to be forgotten, and it validates the fact that he has not been forgotten and that he really made a difference and touched a lot of people," Sharon Hawkins said.
She's a proud mother, who said her son would do just the same as these folks did Tuesday if he were alive and well today.
"He always wanted to help the other person that was hurting and he never wanted sympathy for himself," Sharon Hawkins said.
A few other highlights from Tuesday's events were Dakota's younger brother and his football team from Harding University came by to give bone morrow samples. Plus, a Cabot 7th grader and former cancer survivor brought more than $1,500 worth of pennies from her school. Those pennies, again, are going to the Keep the Faith Foundation in Cabot.
One quick story about Dakota's generosity: his mother said when he was at Children's Hospital, he asked the staff for a red wagon to collect many of the toys that he received as gifts. He would then tie his IV to the wagon, take it down his unit and give those toys to other kids.