MONA SHORES, Mich., (WZZM)-Students in Mona Shores are grieving the loss of a classmate and member of the marching band, after he lost his battle with a rare blood disease.
For 16-year old Joey Hekkema, the fight for life, started at early age. As a toddler, he was diagnosed with two rare blood diseases. His Aunt, Ann Bitzer, says he was a strong little boy."We always thought Joey would pull through this, we always thought from day one, he would be fine."
Joey's family says even though he was taking several medications and seeing doctors, he didn't make a big deal out of being sick.
"Joey had an infectious laugh. When I picture Joey, I see him sliding around the corner in his socks, with a big greeting, saying hello Aunt Ann."
At school, Joey was a drummer in the Mona Shores High School band. "Loved it, lived for it, it was his pride and joy."
The marching band was already practicing for the upcoming season. Joey, about to be a junior at the school, was absent. Over the summer, he came down with a virus and was put on life support. "My sister Ruthie and her husband Dave were not going to give up the fight unless somehow Joey told them it was time to stop."
On Thursday, August 15th, Joey passed away. He will continue to be an inspiration to his family and friends and a life lesson for them all. "The suddenness. Realizing how fragile life is when your that age, that it does happen", says Bitzer.
The family has set up a scholarship fund for Joey. If you would like to make a donation, checks can be made payable to the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. Put "Joey Hekkema" in the memo line. They can be mailed to: 425 W. Western, Suite 200, Muskegon, MI 49440. Donations can also be made online at www.cffmc.org/give/online-giving.