By Jef Rietsma
A community showed its unwavering support for a heroic young lady April 18, when 14-year-old Cambri Dorko was the recipient of a rousing welcome home parade.
Organized by family friends, the inspiring procession lasted about 15 minutes and featured several emergency vehicles and nearly 400 motorcycles ahead of Cambri. She sat in the passenger’s seat and was visibly moved by the hundreds of people who lined Vicksburg’s streets to wave signs, banners and cheer her on.
Cambri and her family were returning from her final cancer treatment in North Carolina. She was diagnosed about a decade ago with neuroblastoma and doctors on April 13 determined that her cancer is terminal.
As a line of fire trucks passed Vicksburg High School, middle school Principal Matt VanDussen said the moment epitomized why he loves Vicksburg.
“One thing that has always drawn me to Vicksburg is its community support that we have here … it has always been tremendous,” he said. “I’m not surprised by the turnout today because this is what we do as a school and a community. To take the time on a beautiful spring Sunday and give our support and well-wishes to Cambri and her family, and welcome them home – it’s real touching and hopefully that comes across today to Cambri and her mom.”
Cambri would be an eighth-grade student at the middle school. VanDussen said, as evidenced at the community rally, he and the district’s staff have united to support Cambri and her family. He said the mission has long been to stay positive and be supportive.
“From what I know about Cambri from the time she has been at school, she’s an energetic person, she has a love of life, she loves being around her friends and she’s always really liked being at school,” VanDussen said. “She has a group of friends who look out for her, and help her and support her as much as possible.”
Larry Gonzalez attended the parade, making the trip down from Grand Rapids. He has worked closely with Cambri and her family through DC Strong, a Plainwell-based agency that works with young cancer patients and their families. It took Cambri and her mom to Walt Disney World a few years ago.
Gonzalez, president of DC Strong, described Cambri as a young lady who has a lot of spunk. Gonzalez said he considers himself fortunate to have been able to work with Cambri.
Gonzalez said he attended the parade more as a backer of Cambri and less as a representative of DC Strong.
“This can be an incredibly difficult job, for sure, but the important thing is to keep a positive mentality and support the family through anything and everything,” he said. “Outcomes are different on every level …. we just try to stay positive and do what we can to bring joy and happiness to these very special kids and their family members. I’m very happy I could be here today to show my support.”
DC Strong works with children from 26 states, Gonzalez said.