Denali Botolino

Denali Botolino passed away this morning.

For most people, that name doesn’t mean much, however for over 7,000 people who have followed his story on a Facebook prayer page and countless others who have heard of him from followers, this is the end of a struggle that has been valiantly fought.

I first met Denali Botolino through my television screen.  A 10-year-old boy suffering with pancreatic cancer.  I remember the moment like it was yesterday, I had just gotten home from work, flipped the tv on and I was stopped in my tracks….

Watching that story, my heart broke.  I knew I had to do something to try to help this family.  One of the wonderful things about my job is that we work very closely with numerous charitable organizations.  Through our carousel, we donate proceeds to organizations and people in need.  I made a mental note to try to find out more about this little boy so that we could hold a carousel day in his honor.

The next morning as I was walking into my office, the receptionist stopped me, “Kendall, there is a lady on the phone with a son who is sick, she needs a place to host an event.” Little did I know that those words would change my life.


When I took the call, I heard the voice of Donna Botolino.  She briefly described to me that her son had pancreatic cancer and a fund-raiser that was to be held for him the next day at his elementary school had been cancelled due to weather.  Donna was looking for a new place to hold the event.

I told her we would host the event.  Within an hour, Donna was in my office and we were making plans.

The minute I met Donna Botolino, I felt a connection.

That day, I joined the “Please Pray for Denali Botolino” Facebook Page and Donna and I became friends on Facebook.

One of the things I quickly learned about Donna is her giving spirit.  While she was going through such turmoil and sadness she always made sure to thank those who were supporting her family publicly and privately.  A gentle grace through a trying storm.

The next day, we hosted  Denali Botolino Day.  Children from his school, kids from his neighboring high school, Sheriff’s Deputies, military, entertainers, clowns, arts and crafts, hundreds of supporters, volunteers and friends all gathered to honor Denali with HIS day.   Donna insisted that all the activities be free, she wanted the kids to enjoy themselves and she wanted to see Denali run and play.

The only fundraising done that day was on the Downtown Carousel, t-shirt sales and donations, but there was more fun than anyone can imagine.

Denali showed up for the event around noon, he was a reluctant celebrity, everyone wanted to be close to him.  At some points it must have been overwhelming, but he fought his own fears, anxieties with the crowds and sickness to participate as much as possible.

Near the end of the day, Donna and I were in my office, I had something to give her on behalf of my company and the merchants in our center.  I had also stashed a handful of carousel tokens in an envelope for the Botolino children to enjoy.

While we were talking, a sudden burst of energy and laughter interrupted us, it was Denali.  I will remember the smile on his face forever, Donna gave him the carousel tokens and he ran off with his friends, trailing off in the sounds of laughter and little boys at play Denali shouted,  “thank you Kendall, thanks for my day.”

Over the weeks and months, I followed along on Denali’s page.  Donna and I spoke from time to time and the plight of this little boy didn’t leave my mind.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, our property lights our holiday lights to begin the Christmas season.  That night, after the ceremony was complete, I got a text from Donna, “are you here?”  YES, I was.  I rushed to find the Botolino’s and was so happy to spend some time with them leading up to Christmas.

The Christmas card they sent still hangs on the bulletin board in my office.  The entire team at my office adopted a strong feeling for the Botolino family and at least once a week, someone will look at the card, which is a photo of their family and ask “how is Denali?”

Every day I have followed  the struggles, mini triumphs and raw emotions found on the Praying for Denali Botolino page.  As the numbers grew, so did the compassion.  Over the last few months Denali has brought together people from around the world, all in prayer for his warrior spirit.

Through the pain and sorrow, a goodness has been created.  People have lit candles, written poems, run races and even driven across the United States on a motorcycle all for one little boy.

Denali Botolino was dealt an unfair hand in life, but through his struggles his legacy will be greater than anyone can ever imagine.

Just a couple of weeks ago when Denali came home to be cared for by hospice, I was fortunate enough to take food to the home for his 11th birthday.  It wasn’t a happy celebration, but it was important that Denali’s family find some comfort in the day.

As usual Donna and Ricky were gracious and steadfast in their commitment to do everything they could to fight the illness that was ravaging their son.

Ricky told me that night, “we may be in hospice, but we aren’t through fighting.”

Fight they did.  Donna and Ricky did everything they could for their son, they fought this battle alongside him, their dedication to their family is exemplary, never giving up or praying for a miracle to keep their child alive.

Denali’s brother and sisters were with him every step of the way, sadly these children have endured things that no one their age should ever have to endure, but they did it as a family and I pray that through their pain they will remember the happier times, the joys and the laughter.

Denali Botolino died today, but his legacy will love on.  Denali fought the good fight, he never gave up and he worked so hard to live.  When his time on earth was done, he had done more in his brief 11 years than most do in a lifetime.  Denali brought the world together, he touched lives and he made a difference.

Denali Botolino will be missed here on earth, but he skipped through the gates of heaven this morning and into the waiting arms of the Lord.  Denali now runs and plays, no longer in pain, no longer battling, Denali’s victory has been won and his life has touched us all.

In the days ahead, please join me in prayer for the entire Botolino family.  My hope is they find comfort in knowing their son was a warrior and his battle touched thousands of lives and changed the way we look at the world we live in.

Rest in Peace now Denali, you are home with the Lord and in pain no more.

If you would like to make a donation to the Botolino Family, an account has been set up through PayPal.

20 thoughts on “Denali Botolino

  1. God bless you. Denali’s folks are from my home town. I graduated with his uncle. I have never seen more grace, faith, or love, than I’ve seen from this family. Today, this little boy’s suffering is complete, but his family’s suffering lives on. They still need help, too. The Botcotree family link is one to remember and honor. Thank you. ❤

      • Yes, Kendall. I’ve got the husband and the credit card working this, right now. We cannot give them what they really need, but we can help ease their day to day lives. What a lovely family. Donatella has reminded me what motherhood truly is. ❤

  2. Iam so sorry for your loss , i just saw this on my facecbook i guess we never look at our selfs or the people in our lives that mean so much us untill it is to late i am glad that god gave you and your famliy the time with your loved one it wasnt enough but you are blessed with the time you had , l will never take life or any one in my life for granted ever again we all have lloblems in our life but we have to remeber to chierish what we have and because i saw your story i will do that i am really sorry for your loss i will pray for your family that you will make it through this

  3. Denali,
    rest in peace my little buddy, no more pain, no more discomfort. You now live in a world of fun, playing and smiles. You are a true hero.

  4. “Love is the only bow on life’s dark cloud.
    It is the Morning and the Evening Star. It shines upon the cradle of the babe, and sheds its radiance upon the quiet tomb. It is the mother of Art, inspirer of poet, patriot, and philosopher. It is the air and light of every heart, builder of every home, kindler of every fire on every hearth. It was the first to dream of immortality. It fills the world with melody, for Music is the voice of Love. Love is the magician, the enchanter, that changes worthless things to joy, and makes right royal kings and queens of common clay. It is the perfume of the wondrous flower — the heart and without that sacred passion, that divine swoon, we are less than beasts; but with it, earth is Heaven and we are Gods.”
    ~Robert G. Ingersoll~

  5. Hi Kendall–was at the carousel on Sunday with my four children and realized that my visits to Downtown will always trigger thoughts of Denali, given the fundraisers that have been held there for him, and I’m sure I’m not alone. As I was telling each of my children what their carousel animal was named, had a thought that perhaps one of the carousel animal’s name could be changed to “Denali”. Thanks for all that you have facilitated for the Botolinos through Downtown at the Gardens and have done personally.

    • thanks Sara, it has been my pleasure to get to know this family and I can honestly say, Denali changed my life.

      I will look at the carousel and life differently now.

  6. Kendall, thank god for people like you! I too have been following this family’s story and my heart breaks for them. I will be sending this paypal link on to my friends in hopes they can help as well.


  7. Our hearts and prayers are with this family as they celebrate and remember the life of there dear little warrior. He was a brave warrior, this story has touched our hearts the heart of my 14 yr old son Michael and I as my son has cancer as well a differnt kind but Michael only 14 can relate to Denali being a child and going though this. But In the middle of my Michael’s fight just 57 days ago we lost my husband , Michaels dad to a heart attack and it was Michael that found his dad passed in Michaels bedroom and when Michael heard about Denali though Pastor at our church, Michael wanted to do something for the family, Michael not ever meeting Denali in the middle of his own battle asked me to take him to the church to the service for Denali and we went. Our hearts & prayers are with the family today and Pray for them as Denali is now at peace at GOD’S side and he is one of GOD’S Angels whom Michael looks up at the stars and said mom I looked on the computer and we can buy a star and have it named and I want to do this in honor of Denalis life. How could I say know to this. My son in the middle of his own battle with cancer is reaching out to celebrate Denali life and remember him in every night when he looks to the stars to the heavens above. GOD BLESS YOU DENALI. The Kalisz Family of Jupiter Fl.

  8. I need to correct something in my above comment as i was attempting to correct ot but i hot the post comment by accident…
    “this story has touched our hearts the heart of my 14 yr old son Michael and I as my son has cancer as well a differnt kind ” I do not have cancer it is my son that has a form of Melanoma and had been undergoing treatments since this past November with the latest treatment one on June 7. and also please forgive me for my mis-spelling as well on: ” How could I say know ” I meant to write; how could I say no. … its late and i;m very tired so please forgove me… once again GOD REST DENALI

  9. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your beautiful little boy has been in my thoughts and prayers for a long time. I will always think of him and his brave battle and you will always be in my thoughts and prayers too. You have touched the hearts of many.

  10. Pingback: Denali Botolino ~ One Year | Notes from a Southern Kitchen

  11. Pingback: Friday’s Hero – 7.19.13; #TaliasBucketList | Notes from a Southern Kitchen

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