After battling with cancer for seven years, 12-year-old Kyle McGetrick of Barnegat died Tuesday at 1 p.m.
During his battle, which the doctors did not foresee would last as long as it had, his family said, McGetrick had inspired his entire town with his strength and courage.
Barnegat's entire community showed support, as Kyle's terminal disease slowly consumed him. Friends, family and hundreds of residents from the area and beyond cheered Kyle on as he held on to life for as long as he could.
Kyle was diagnosed at the age of 5.
"He could have succumbed to it five years ago," Gene McGetrick, Kyle's father told Patch this morning. "They sent him home from the hospital in December telling us that he probably wouldn’t live till the New Year. But he was a fighter. Even yesterday, at the house, he fought to the end."
That's been Kyle's nature, always, said McGetrick, 39.
"His motto was never to give up," McGetrick said.
His friends and supporters created an initiative called "Courage for Kyle," but in his last days Kyle wanted to change it to "Courage from Kyle," McGetrick said. Kyle wanted to pass his courage on to others.
"One of his couple of last wishes was that [Courage for Kyle] be turned into another fund to help other kids in Barnegat" McGetrick said. "There are a couple of other families who are dealing with this right now."
"That's Kyle," McGetrick added. "Even though he's gone, he still has that presence."
Kyle's family and his stem cell donor from North Carolina shared Kyle's last moments with him Tuesday, at his home, Gene McGetrick said. He said his son was glad to be home, with his family and friends when the final moments came.
"He told his mom and his sister that he loved us," McGetrick said. "He died as he wanted to."
Audibly struggling with his emotions, McGetrick said he wanted to thank Barnegat for everything the town has done for his son.
"Everything that the town and the community gave, we can’t speak enough of," McGetrick said. "This is truly the best town, anywhere, and on behalf of the whole family we just want to thank everyone."
In particular, McGetrick thanked the fire department, Dee Lynch, the resident who had been the driving force behind "Courage for Kyle," and Ocean of Love, a non-profit organization in Ocean County which provides assistance and support to kids with cancer.
But the support does not stop with Kyle's passing.
One of Kyle's many supporters in the community, Jillian Grobelny, is organizing a candle lighting event for Kyle tonight, to say goodbye while commemorating his life, his courage and his inspiration.
The event will take place at 8 p.m. along Barnegat Boulevard in front of Cecil S. Collins School.
"Anyone and everyone is welcome to come with a candle and light in remembrance of a little boy who has touched all of our lives and has brought our town together as one," said Grobelny of Barnegat. "I dont care if I am standing alone or if there are a million people with me. Kyle deserves it."