The fight is over for the young would-be chef who met Gordon Ramsay with the help of the Dayton chapter of A Special Wish Foundation.
LaVante Williams died at home Thursday, July 25, months after being diagnosed with a fast-growing brain tumor.
The 15-year-old’s final wish was to continue to make a difference in the lives of others in the name of science.
“He is donating his brain so they can research the tumor in his brain,” LaVante’s mom, Stephanie Williams, told this news organization this morning. “He always wanted to be helpful and help other kids.”
Although childhood cancer is rare, the National Cancer Institute says it is the leading cause of death by disease past infancy among children in the nation.
In 2018, the agency estimated that 15,590 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 would be diagnosed with cancer in the United States and that 1,780 would die of the disease.
LaVante initially wanted to donate his organs for those in need, but his treatments made that impossible.
Wanting to give back was just part of his nature, his mom said.
“He just had that heart,” Stephanie said. “Some people are born with it. He just always wanted to give.”
LaVante, who had a passion for the culinary arts, went to Los Angeles with his grandmother, Keely Quillen, and brother, Malachi Williams in June.
There he met “Hell's Kitchen” and “MasterChef” host/judge and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay as part of the trip organized by A Special Wish Foundation Dayton Chapter.
Tyler Gregory, the wish manager for the nonprofit that grants wishes for children who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening disorder, said LaVante’s gift speaks volumes.
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“He wanted to donate his body so they can research and get one step closer to a cure,” Gregory said. “For a 15-year-old to take it upon himself to research that... It speaks to his character.”
Stephanie said a celebration of life service will be held in her son’s honor.
His brain is being donated to researchers through Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, she said.
She urges people to support Dayton Children’s, Cincinnati Children’s and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as they try to find cures for disease that impact children.
LaVante would have been a sophomore at Troy High School this fall. He played the saxophone in the Troy High School marching band. He also participated for three years in the Troy Optimists Oratorical Speech Contest.
"We are deeply saddened to hear of LaVante's passing,” Troy High School principal Dave Dilbone said. “He was a courageous young man who was well-liked and respected by his classmates. He will be missed by the entire Trojan Family at Troy High School. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time."
*** PREVIOUS COVERAGE (July 19, 2019): Gordon Ramsay ties MasterChef apron on local boy as part of special wish
A 15-year-old food fanatic earned an apron from one of the world’s best-known chefs and he didn’t even have to turn on a flame to get it.
LaVante Williams, a 15-year-old Troy resident diagnosed with a fast-growing brain tumor in November, recently met “Hell's Kitchen” and “MasterChef” host/judge and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay with the help of A Special Wish Foundation Dayton Chapter.
The shows air on FOX.
“It meant everything. He had so much fun,” Stephanie Williams, LaVante’s mom, said. “It means the world that he got to achieve some of his goals.”
LaVante, a Troy High School student, can burn in the kitchen especially when it comes to breakfast food: eggs, waffles... the whole works, his mom said.
“He’s always loved to cook since he was little,” his mom Stephanie Williams said. “He likes to create his own stuff.”
LaVante has considered a career in culinary arts, his mom said.
During the trip in late June, Ramsay gave LaVante an apron with his name on it similar to the ones given to contestants on MasterChef.
“As you know, a TV personality is different from a real personality,” said Stephanie, who often watches Ramsay’s shows with LaVante.
Not only did LaVante spend about 30 minutes talking to the TV personality known to call contestants “donkey” or worse, but he was there for a taping of “MasterChef Junior,” one of his favorite shows.
He also visited the Pacific Ocean with Ramsay’s help.
The trip came just three days after LaVante returned from a family vacation to Florida, where they visited Walt Disney World and the Atlantic Ocean.
“He had never been to the beach at all. We thought it would be pretty cool for him to see (a beach on) both sides,” his mom said. “A lot of people don’t get to do that.”
Tyler Gregory, the wish manager for the nonprofit that grants wishes for children who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening disorder, said the wish had to come together quickly due to LaVante’s condition and on the advice of Dr. Lionel M.L. Chow of Dayton Children’s, where LaVante has received care.
The California trip for LaVante came together with the help of A Special Wish board member Jimmy Grilli, a Dayton-based member of the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, Gregory said.
The Dayton chapter grants about 50 wishes a year. About 60 percent are requests for Disney vacations.
Gregory said families are often steered away from celebrity wishes.
“You might get a handshake and a hello — or you get what Gordon did, which was above and beyond,” Gregory said. “When you ask for a trip to the beach, you get a day on a beach.”
Gregory said Ramsay’s team called to find out what LaVante likes before their meeting in late June so the TV star and teen could have a better conversation.
Stephanie was in the hospital being treated for kidney stones when A Special Wish received word that Ramsay had granted LaVante’s wish.
“They said he’s here until Sunday and then he is leaving the country,” she recalled. “We had to get him there quickly.”
LaVante went to Los Angeles with his grandmother, Keely Quillen, and brother, Malachi Williams.
Stephanie said it was amazing to see LaVante, a lover of reading and writing, get his wish granted.
“He just loves everybody,” Stephanie said. “Family comes first. He is always trying to make everyone smile.”
She said LaVante is feeling tired and weak a lot these days. But during his trips he shined.
“He really got to see a lot of things that he had (on his list),” Stephanie said. “It is really good for him to have had those experiences while he can enjoy them.”