Youngster inspires community

Saanich’s Emma Smith loses her courageous battle with cancer

Emma Grace Smith died on June 21 in her family’s Saanich home. The 12-year-old fought cancer for four years.

Emma Grace Smith died on June 21 in her family’s Saanich home. The 12-year-old fought cancer for four years.

Life moves forward but it isn’t getting any easier for the Smith family a month after losing Emma.

The 12-year-old succumbed to cancer on June 21. The family recently held a private funeral but is planning a celebration of life for the greater community to attend in September. Details will be announced soon.

“Emma faced her challenges with dignity and bravery, a wicked sense of humour and a continued concern for the well-being of others rather than herself,” said her father, Darrell.

Smith’s death came nearly four years after her initial diagnosis of pineoblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, on Oct. 1, 2012. Smith underwent successful radiation and chemotherapy and was diagnosed as in remission in August 2013. But on Oct. 1, 2014, two years to the day of her first diagnosis, test results showed the cancer had returned and spread to her spine.

“Emma was a kind-hearted soul that unconditionally cared for all those about her,” said Darrell on behalf of the family. “She wanted everyone to treat each other with respect and kindness, and having been inspired by her elementary school teachers she also wanted to pass on her knowledge to others by becoming a teacher.”

On May 21, the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Education honoured her with a teaching degree, handed to her by Chancellor Shelagh Rogers. The degree focused on her experience as a ‘teacher for a day’ on May 6 at her former elementary school, Cloverdale Traditional (she was at Lansdowne middle school this year).

Teaching was an item on the bucket list she and her family put together following the results of an MRI in late April. At that time, the family made the difficult decision to share with Smith the reality of her limited future. From there, the community that had already rallied came together once again. There was a dance performance called an Evening for Emma at Oak Bay High that raised more than $13,000, and a local hockey team that hosted an Afternoon for Emma charity hockey game at Pearkes which raised $15,000. The money helped the family as father Darrell has not worked since 2015 so he could be with his daughter and family.

“We hope that everyone that came to know Emma, whether personally or through the media, felt that kindness of heart that emanated from her, along with her zest for learning,” Darrell said. “Her illness brought us closer to our community as they played a very important part in our caring for Emma, and we will forever be grateful for their help.”

Smith is survived by parents Diane and Darrell, and brother Charlie,10.

She was an avid book reader who read and re-read the Harry Potter series. Over the past four years Emma and the Smith family spent time at B.C. Children’s Hospital, the Ronald MacDonald House and Victoria General Hospital.

In lieu of flowers, the Smith family is asking the community to donate to Ronald McDonald House (https://goo.gl/fAhy8j) or Help Fill A Dream (https://goo.gl/CS6DVF).