‘The most infectious smile’: Nevada County mourns the death of 8-year-old Dawson Deschaine | TheUnion.com

‘The most infectious smile’: Nevada County mourns the death of 8-year-old Dawson Deschaine

Breanna and Jason Deschaine are doing their best to keep smiling during a difficult time in their lives.

That's what their son Dawson would have wanted, they said.

Dawson died Saturday after two years of battling leukemia, a cancer that causes the body to produce too many immature white blood cells. He was eight years old.

"He always had a smile on his face," said his mom, Breanna. "It was the most infectious smile. So we're just smiling now, because that's all Dawson would want."

“But he fought a hard battle for years. I was talking to his doctor today, and she told me she could always tell his tenacity and his drive to live every single day was just amazing.”

— Breanna Deschaine

Dawson became an honorary Nevada County firefighter last year during "Dawson's Day," a celebration of the bravery and courage he showed throughout his fight with leukemia.

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Dawson rode around the county on a fire truck, and Grass Valley Fire Chief Mark Buttron honored him with a badge-pinning ceremony.

"We wanted to do something to show we appreciated how courageous he was," said Shawna Cresswell, Nevada County Consolidated Fire District's finance administrative assistant.

The Deschaine family helped Dawson experience a variety of exciting adventures in an effort to brighten his life. He'd spent countless hours in hospital beds since he was diagnosed with cancer at the age of five.

"He was always ready for whatever adventure we came up with," Breanna said. "He may have thought they were crazy afterward, but he was always super excited to go out and live his life to the fullest."

The Deschaines took Dawson white-water rafting, horseback riding, go-kart racing and mini golfing, among other adventures. It had been Dawson's dream to go to Hawaii, and the family is still planning to make that happen. Eventually, Breanna said, they will bring his ashes out with them on a family trip to the islands.

'Incredible' community support

Kelsey Anderson, a close friend of the Deschaine family, said she has been blown away by the amount of support the community has shown to Dawson, his parents and his 12-year-old sister Harlie.

"The support has been incredible," Anderson said. "Through the pain, the love shines through."

Anderson helped organize a variety of community events to raise money for the Deschaine family to pay for Dawson's many treatments.

During his fight with cancer, Dawson received chemotherapy treatments, radiation, and two stem cell transplants. He'd recently started a new drug trial that was said to be a possible cure for leukemia.

The family tried everything to help Dawson fight off his illness. But, according to Breanna, there isn't enough funding for childhood cancer treatments.

"Only 4 percent of cancer funding goes to childhood cancer," she said. "That's not enough for these kids that go through hell for years and years."

Support for those still fighting

The Deschaines have become close friends with other families who have children battling cancer. Breanna wants to help those kids who are still fighting. She said it's her mission to push for more research into childhood cancer treatments.

Breanna said she's not sure exactly what ended Dawson's battle with leukemia.

"His little heart and his little lungs just couldn't take it anymore," she said.

But as far as she's concerned, Dawson has won the fight. He's in a better place.

"We'd like to have him here. Trust me," she said. "But he fought a hard battle for years. I was talking to his doctor today, and she told me she could always tell his tenacity and his drive to live every single day was just amazing."

The Deschaine family will host a memorial service for Dawson at 4 p.m. July 2 at Western Gateway Park. Breanna said the ceremony will be open to anyone wishing to be a part of celebrating Dawson's life.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.

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