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Community rallies to honour teenager’s ‘strength, bravery, maturity and resilience’

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Eoghan Homan breaks the tape at the finish line of the 2020 Butterfield Front Street Mile, in which he was middle school boys’ champion (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The loss of a promising young athlete and Somersfield Academy student has united students in memory of Eoghan Homan and prompted an outpouring for charity.

Eoghan, 16, battled for 14 months against a rare and aggressive paediatric cancer known as Ewing’s sarcoma, which affects just two children in a million.

His death on February 23 at Boston Children’s Hospital prompted hundreds to sign up as Team Eoghan for the record-breaking fundraiser walk by the cancer charity Pals three days later.

Eoghan Homan, 16, a Somersfield Academy student whose life was cut short by a rare childhood cancer (Photograph supplied)

His family said they were left “overwhelmed” at the show of solidarity.

On Friday, the St Baldrick’s charity drive starts at the Docksider Pub in Hamilton at 6pm, and two teams will take part in honour of Eoghan’s fight with the disease.

His parents, Colm and Niamh Homan, said: “Despite the severity of the diagnosis and the toll that multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and numerous surgeries took on him, Eoghan demonstrated remarkable levels of strength, bravery, maturity and resilience that were an inspiration to all around him.”

They said that the compassion of caregivers in Bermuda and Boston “bolstered his spirits and provided much solace to his family”.

They thanked Pals, particularly for its help in November during Eoghan’s short trip home from Boston.

His father, also well known in Bermuda’s running community, is taking part in next month’s Boston Marathon to campaign for the Children’s Hospital’s research into childhood sarcomas. He has already raised more than $58,000 for the cause.

His Miles for Miracles campaign can be found online at the hospital’s website.

Colleen English DeGrilla, the executive director of Pals, said that more than $80,000 was raised for the cause by an epic turnout of 1,370 participants for its charity walk — more than double the previous high of 650 signing up.

“It was an amazing event,” she said. “We ran out of everything from kits to T-shirts, even though it was pouring rain that day.”

She said that despite the tragedy, the day turned into “a feel-good, positive event”, with more than 430 Somersfield pupils signing up, and a stirring speech delivered by Charlie Judd, the head of the secondary department at the school.

Eoghan Homan: a teacher’s tribute

As schoolmates of a teenager lost to cancer gathered to walk for the charity Pals, Charlie Judd, of Somersfield Academy, told them: “Today we become our own universe — a community of stars lighting the path.

“Today we stand with one of our own, Eoghan Homan.”

Mr Judd said he had written recently to Eoghan and shared that “an army of supporters was behind him”.

“For over a year, Eoghan fought childhood cancer — an impossible and unfair fate for a young person to be dealt.”

But Mr Judd said the boy’s “courage, bravery and grit” set an example for all.

“Let’s be inspired to be bold, to be brave, to show courage when the odds are stacked against us — just as Eoghan did.

“If anything, we know that life is far too short and the things we hold most dear can be taken from us in a heartbeat.

“I know Eoghan would want to challenge us to live our best life, to bring positive change to all we touch, and to cherish the time the universe has gifted us.

“Let’s stand together with love, kindness and compassion. Today we walk for Eoghan.”

Mr Judd told The Royal Gazette that the Homans were “longstanding Somersfield community members”.

Born in Bermuda in 2006, Eoghan started at the school at age 3. Aisling, his older sister, is a recent graduate,

“Colm is a longstanding member of our board, and Niamh plays a major role on the parental side,” Mr Judd said. “They’re part of the fabric of the school.”

He called Eoghan “a good person, good student and talented athlete — a lovely, gentle, nice kid.

“Obviously there has been a lot of conversation among his closest friends, and hearing them speaking of him is really moving.

“He was someone his peers looked to for advice, someone wise beyond his years, and he is sorely missed.”

Eoghan Homan (Image from online)

Even as staff and students mourned Eoghan, Mr Judd said, they rallied around one another for the Pals walk.

“Obviously everybody was feeling really sad, but I think we mobilised and found strength in each other.

“We wanted to be strong to celebrate Eoghan and show his family our support.

“We’re just getting out of post-Covid, and bringing everybody together has been needed — it was a moment to come together and grieve and mourn in a positive way.”

Eoghan’s family said the teenager was well known across the island.

He was an age group national cross-country and inter-school champion, with age-group wins in a string of road races.

“His favourite distance was the mile and his crowning athletic achievement was capturing the Middle School Boys’ Front Street Mile title in 2020 before the cancellation of the subsequent races due to the Covid-19 pandemic deprived him of the opportunity to defend that title.

“He was renowned within his running clubs as being a very active supporter of his team-mates, in particular encouraging younger athletes to persevere with their training and overcome adversity.”

Enrolled at Somersfield’s International Baccalaureate diploma programme, Eoghan was described as “much beloved by staff and fellow students as an honour student, and for his sense of humour and teamwork”.

A follower of Formula One and Liverpool Football Club, Eoghan also built up a passion for the Boston Celtics basketball team. He liked to claim that his arrival in Boston and support for the team brought about its turnaround in fortunes.

“Eoghan had one of his dreams come true when he got to meet his Celtics heroes shortly before he passed, where they hosted him and his family for a game along with gifting him much memorabilia signed by his favourite players and giving his families wonderful memories to cherish.

“In his short life, Eoghan made a tremendous impact on all around him, and will be sorely missed by his classmates and faculty at Somersfield Academy, his team-mates at DNA and MAAC running clubs and the Vasco football team, and his wider friend group.”

The Homans said they hoped that highlighting Eoghan’s battle would raise awareness of paediatric cancers and the need to invest in treatment and research.

Medical studies have lagged in comparison with cancers affecting adults, and developments in the treatment of rare sarcomas such as Eoghan’s have been limited.

“His parents are also keen to encourage people to donate blood wherever possible,” they added.

“Eoghan required over two dozen transfusions during his treatment and this would not have been possible without an active pool of blood donors, which is always a challenge on a small island like Bermuda.”

A private celebration of Eoghan’s life is planned for Dublin in Ireland in early April, and back in Bermuda in mid-April.

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Published March 15, 2023 at 4:37 pm (Updated March 15, 2023 at 4:37 pm)

Community rallies to honour teenager’s ‘strength, bravery, maturity and resilience’

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