Ethan’s birthday tribute

Before Kevin and Cameron Olmats were old enough to understand, their brand new baby brother became very sick. Little Ethan was only three months old, when he was diagnosed with infant acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Although his time on earth was brief, Ethan made a lasting impression on everyone he met—especially his big brothers.

ethan olmat with his beaded journey
Ethan at the hospital. Still smiling, even while going through cancer.

Ethan’s brothers meant the world to him. His little face would light up in a smile every time they visited him at the hospital. And, Mom and Dad made sure that was often. From the beginning, they included the older boys in Ethan’s cancer journey, while also juggling work schedules and extracurricular activities to ensure that life for Cameron and Kevin, who were three and seven at the time, remained relatively normal.

It’s an approach they maintain today. They speak openly about Ethan and the loss of his joyful presence.

“During our Christmas dinner last year, we were talking about Ethan and how his next birthday, in May, would have been his first double digit birthday. The big 10!” says Mom, Colleen Olmats. “We talked about what we should do to commemorate the milestone. Ideas were going back and forth and then Kevin said, ‘I know what we should do to make it special and make it mean something. I’ll shave my head in memory of Ethan!'”

That’s when Cameron chimed in, “So will I!” That was it. It was decided.

TheIMG_3029 boys didn’t cut their hair again from that point forward and they started spreading the word about their shave in Ethan’s name. When they discovered that William Aberhart High School was holding a shave event on June 2, Kevin and Cameron joined their ranks.Together, the Olmats brothers raised over $5,000, bringing William Aberhart High School’s fundraising total to over $8,000.

Kevin and Cameron know first-hand the impact Kids Cancer Care programs can have in the lives of kids and families like theirs, so raising money for the foundation was a natural choice for them.

The Olmats first encountered Kids Cancer Care during Pizza Nights at the hospital when Ethan was on treatment. During Weekly Pizza Nights, they met other families on the unit as well as Kids Cancer Care volunteers, whose own children had also been through cancer. These volunteer parents would become lifelong friends, offering the Olmats support throughout Ethan’s cancer journey and beyond.

“They became a lifeline for my parents and Cameron and I,” says Kevin. “It’s hard to talk to friends about cancer when they’ve never experienced it themselves. They try, but they can’t really relate, so they can’t really offer support in the ways you  need it. These friends could. And it was Kids Cancer Care that brought these friends to us.”

The Olmats family soon started going to Cool Yule, Family Camp, Family Ski Days, summer camp and much more, where they found healing and comfort in their darkest time.

I still remember the love I felt from Tracey Huddy [former Kids Cancer Care social worker] as we sat on the stone of the fireplace at Camp Kindle and talked about Ethan’s death,” says Kevin. “I don’t remember the words now, but I do remember she gave me exactly what I needed at that time to feel like I could one day be whole again. She helped me to understand the feelings I was going through and that what I was experiencing was a normal part of the grieving process.”

“Just being with other families like ours has helped us immensely with our healing journey,” says Colleen. “They helped show us we could laugh again without feeling guilty. They helped us to become strong again, to live again and to keep moving forward with our lives–just as Ethan would want us to.”

Thank you, Kevin and Cameron! You are shave superheroes!

And thank you to all the brave students of William Aberhart High School, who shaved their heads and raised funds for young people like Kevin and Cameron, whose lives have been interrupted by childhood cancer.