A freshman at North Lincoln High School in Denver, NC, BJ loved fishing and sports – especially basketball and football. This led him to take advantage of every possible opportunity to be outdoors. His positive attitude and courageous spirit were inspiring, gaining him fans from around the globe on his Facebook page.
In December 2015, U.S. Navy SEAL Team 8 named him an Honorary Navy SEAL due to his character and warrior spirit. His story went viral after being featured on Inside Edition. He was a true warrior in his fight against cancer, and he fought to shine the light of his faith throughout his battle. People around the globe awaited updates on BJ's progress, and many expressed their love, concern, and prayed daily for his improvement and cure.
In the early weeks of 2016, and after nearly three consecutive months in the hospital, several outside referrals to a local integrative medicine physician were received. A short time later, after 90 consecutive days inpatient and exhausting all standard treatment options, BJ was discharged home with a transfer of care to Kid’s Path (Hospice).
Within a week of being home, BJ was able to see the integrative medicine physician. The physician cautioned that BJ’s case was severe, but said he thought he could help. BJ’s body was ravaged from years of chemotherapy, an unsuccessful cutting-edge clinical trial, and two rounds of a new immunotherapy treatment, but his family still had hope for a cure.
Ultimately, BJ developed a systemic blood infection. and died within the week, just 15 days after being discharged from the hospital, and 2 days after his 15th birthday.
Even after his death, his mother, Michelle, and younger sister, Carly, felt there was purpose behind being directed toward an integrative medicine path. The more they read, the more they were convinced that standard chemotherapy is not the only option nor the final answer for cancer treatment.
In the 3 1/2 years of his fight, BJ was passionate and active in his push for the National Cancer Institute to allocate more than 4% of its funding to childhood cancer research. Six months after BJ died, the Stand Firm Warrior Foundation was created. The name represents BJ’s warrior stance against pediatric cancer as well as his strong faith in God’s plan, regardless of circumstances or outcome.
We have taken the baton, and continue to fight with the help and force of a mighty warrior.
A group of retired US Navy SEALs came to the hospital to designate BJ as an Honorary Navy SEAL on December 10, 2015. From that moment on, they continued to be a part of his life. The SEALs were also present at his funeral and each one pounded a Trident into the top of BJ’s wooden casket.
Deborah Norville with Inside Edition sent a crew to film the festivities for BJ’s 15th birthday on Friday and Saturday, March 4-5, 2016. Deborah sent the Mission Impossible 3 movie for us to pre-screen. BJ’s friends, family, and Navy SEAL brothers surrounded him and he enjoyed his party. Friends from our community brought supplies and decorations. It was truly a fantastic birthday celebration.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, BJ’s condition worsened. He was transported to the hospital and passed away several hours later.
The Inside Edition feature aired on Tuesday, March 8, 2016, and currently has over 4.6 million views.
There were numerous news outlets that picked up the story of BJ being named an Honorary US Navy SEAL.
Michelle created a slide show to play in the area outside of BJ's visitation at Raymer Kepner Funeral Home.
This video link will take you to Michelle's Youtube channel.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson wishes BJ a happy 15th birthday.