Hundreds of local residents raised nearly $10,000 for the Talbert Family Foundation on Saturday during a 5K walk at David Starr Jordan Middle School held in honor of Christopher Wilke, the 12-year-old boy who died last month after battling a rare form of cancer.
Christopher was a student at the school, where more than 400 people participated in the walk. The event started with a warm-up led by Christopher's physical education teacher and class.
"There was just a huge feeling of support and emotion," said Principal Stacy Cashman. "It was just a very visible tribute to the student and family, and the community."
Christopher was the first patient on record at Children's Hospital Los Angeles — and among the youngest patients ever — to be diagnosed with a pure cholangiocarcinoma, a cancer of the bile duct. He died on March 20, 2 1/2 months after he was diagnosed.
Robin Hatch, Christopher's seventh-grade history teacher who helped organize the event, remembered Christopher as a sweet student who "cared a lot about everyone else."
The fundraiser, she said, was bittersweet.
"It's really nice to know I've chosen Burbank as my home to be able to see that there's such a great support system," Hatch said. "This was my first experience with a student death and the community response was just amazing."
Aside from the school event, Christopher's family has independently raised more than $25,000 online and through social media for Christopher's fund set up through the Talbert Family Foundation, which provides financial assistance to families suffering with serious illnesses.
And through other community fundraisers and donations, the family has raised more than $50,000 for medical expenses.
For example, three of Christopher's friends started "Change Works" — a campaign named by using his initials — through which they've been selling green wrist bands for $1 each to raise money for Christopher and other children with cancer.
"It was neat to see everybody coming together in having some fun and enjoying the day," said Christopher's father, Joe Wilke, of Saturday's walk, adding that he appreciates the community support.
"It's overwhelming at times, like, wow, really? People are still thinking about us? Which is really nice," he said.