MUSCATINE, Iowa–For Parker Hopkins, Leukemia has played a role in his life for as long as he can remember. However, the five-year-old has never let it get him down and has grown into a healthy kindergartner who now helps raise awareness about the disease. For his incredible story and dedication to helping the cause the Leukemia and Lymphoma of Iowa named him their Boy of the Year.
Just before turning two, Parker received a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia. He underwent chemotherapy from August through December of 2016. Despite the difficulties of chemotherapy and having to stay in the hospital for four months, his parents, Jordan and Kiefer Hopkins, say he remained as spunky and playful as ever. “The chemo did not seem to slow Parker down, and he was always out of his room playing with nurses and other kids, when his numbers would allow,” Kiefer Hopkins recalls. On Dec. 24, 2016, Parker went into remission and his doctors allowed him to go home, a Christmas miracle.
However, Parker’s cancer returned in August of 2017. In addition to chemotherapy, Parker would require a bone marrow transplant. Fortunately, his brother, Maddux Hopkins, proved a 100% match for him. After two months of chemotherapy, Parker received his bone marrow transplant Oct. 9, 2017. He recovered rapidly. “Within two weeks, Parker had recovered from the transplant, in record time as a bone marrow transplant, and we were able to leave the children’s hospital,” Kiefer Hopkins shared. Though Parker continues to return for periodic follow-up visits, he has had no hospital stays since. He has remained cancer free for the last three years.
A happy and active child, Parker has many interests. He enjoys competing in wrestling with the Muscatine Wrestling Club, riding his motocross bike, watching Netflix movies with his family, and playing with Beyblades tops. He has also enjoyed starting school and attending kindergarten this year. He continues to raise awareness for Leukemia and Lymphoma and for pediatric cancer.
While Parker received treatment at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, Hayden Bevelacqua, a University of Iowa Student and a Dance Marathon participant, used to visit Parker to play with him. After graduating, Bevelacqua took a job with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Iowa. She recently saw a post on the Parker Strong Facebook Page celebrating his progress over the last several years. Inspired by his story, Bevelacqua nominated Parker as this year’s boy of the year, and reached out to his family to invite them to accept the honor.
Though Parker may not fully understand the significance of getting named Boy of the Year yet, Kiefer Hopkins, says, “he knows he’s won an award, so he’s pretty excited about that.” As the boy of the year, Parker will encourage local businesses and community leaders to donate to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Iowa during a 10 week fundraising period to help those currently fighting cancer. A culminating ceremony will honor both the Boy and Girl of the Year as well as the top fundraiser.