- Associated Press - Sunday, June 21, 2015

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - Two-year-old Trucker Dukes might be receiving cancer treatments 5,000 miles away in New York, but his home community wants him to know they’re dancing for him.

More than 80 people took to the Oskie Rice Arena during the Maui Upcountry 4H Livestock & Ag Fair to dance in support of the Maui boy who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in November, The Maui News (https://bit.ly/1BkZmTp ) reported Sunday.

“We wanted to show Trucker that even though they’re a million miles away, that we’re all here supporting him, and even with them gone, there’s so many people loving and praying for him,” said Bambi Kekiwi, one of the dance organizers.

The dance video, which was recorded by on-the-ground video cameras as well as a drone from above, will be sent to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” as part of Degeneres’ #Just Keep Dancing Challenge. The talk show host was inspired by young cancer patient Braylon Beam, a 6-year-old from North Carolina who is fighting cancer and appeared on her show, and dancing. Hoping to start a fundraising movement like the popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, DeGeneres challenged people to upload #Just Keep Dancing videos.

The Maui dance challenge video will be uploaded online this week, organizers said. Maui dancers included Maui 4-H Livestock youths, families and Upcountry paniolo who grooved to both “Cha Cha Slide” and “Electric Slide.”

“We only gave them a one-week notice that we were going to do this, and people actually showed up and danced,” organizer Kristy Stone said, adding that she was “very happy” with Sunday’s turnout.

The event even featured a guest appearance by Darren Lee as Elvis, who risked getting dust on his white suit to dance in the arena among the crowd.

The video might have been made for Dukes, but organizers wanted to bring awareness to cancer that affects nearly 40 children (younger than 15) in Hawaii per year, according to statistics compiled by the National Cancer Institute. About four children in Maui County are diagnosed with cancer every year.

“There’s so many families being affected now by cancer, and especially pediatric cancer,” said organizer Shannie Akau. “But we’re just glad to be able to do our part, we’re just three mommies that came together to do this,” she said, referencing Kekiwi and Stone.

Duke’s father was on duty as a firefighter at Kihei Fire Station on Sunday and was unable to attend the recording of the dance video, but he said the fact that the community has rallied for his son’s cause was “awesome.”

“It’s been really cool, we definitely feel the love, we feel supported, my son has really touched a lot of people and I’m proud of the fight that he’s fighting,” Joshua Dukes said by phone Sunday. “There’s definitely been hard moments, awkward moments, but for the most part the community has been so supportive and it brings a smile to my face.”

He said Trucker was doing well last week after finishing his eighth round of chemotherapy. The boy was able to visit the beach in New York this weekend but is waiting to do another scan in a week and a half to check for signs of remaining cancer cells.

The last scan that Trucker did after a major surgery revealed signs of chemo-resistant cancer, so the young boy will be undergoing more rounds of chemotherapy while receiving T-cell transfers from his mother.

“It’s been a difficult journey … a lot of bad news, but we’re continuing to push on,” Joshua Dukes said.

He hopes his son and wife will be able to return to Maui by December or early next year.

Prayers and signs also were held during the Upcountry fair for Oahu infant Liliaokeawawa Aki Wong, a 2-month-old who is currently being treated in California for a heart defect called Truncus Arteriosus. Akau said much of the profits from sales and donations at the Upcountry fair will go toward the baby’s care.


Information from: The Maui News, https://www.mauinews.com

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