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Local baseball phenom Dylan Gervais dies of cancer at age 18

'Last year at this time he was playing rep hockey with my son,' says Nicole Pattenden who is selling rosemary trees to benefit the Gervais family

A young local baseball phenom has died after being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.

Dylan Gervais, 18, of Penetanguishene, contracted leukemia last spring and had been getting cancer treatment at Toronto hospitals. Earlier this month, he was transferred to Hospice Huronia after the cancer spread.

Tragically, Dylan died in hospice Monday.

"It happened really fast. Last year at this time he was playing rep hockey with my son Carter," said family friend Nicole Pattenden, holding back tears. 

Earlier this month, Dylan came and watched his Penetang Minor Hockey teammates play.

"He was wheel-chaired into their change room after the game and they all got to see him," said Pattenden, who lives in Penetanguishene.

Dylan, who had graduated from Georgian Bay District Secondary School, played to the end of last season, in March.

"From March till now. That's it. That's all the time he had. It's crazy how fast it can happen," she said.

Dylan was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in Penetanguishene. When he was 12, Dylan found his love for baseball and began playing with the Midland Twins.

“With the sport of baseball, I love the happiness and joy it brings to me along with the ability to be with a lot of my friends,” he told MidlandToday earlier this year.

And like some sort of very cruel April Fool's joke, Gervais was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on this past April 1.

A day later, his spleen ruptured resulting in an emergency splenectomy that put him in the critical care unit at Sunnybrook Hospital for several days before transferring back to the cancer ward.

“This has been a life-changing situation,” Gervais said a few weeks after his diagnosis, noting the medical emergency has caused him to miss out on what was supposed to be one of the best years of his life.

“My graduation from high school, prom, going to post-secondary school in the fall, summertime events with my friends, concerts, days at the beach and, of course, baseball. Everything has either been eliminated or drastically modified," he said at the time.

This year he was set to play with the 18U Royals in Orillia. The Georgian Bay District Secondary School student also had a potential scholarship opportunity lined up in New York before being diagnosed with leukemia. He has also been accepted to Brock University and Sheridan College in kinesiology.

Pattenden, meanwhile, wants to do something to help Dylan's parents Amanda and Mike along with younger brother Mason.

And since plants have healing properties and healing power is needed now, she has begun selling rosemary trees as a fundraiser for the Gervais family. 

Pattenden has sold 30 plants so far, but has set a goal of 100.

"We want to sell as many of these as we can to help the family in their time of need," she said. "The family has a lot of friends in hockey and in the area."

Pattenden expects there will be a large funeral as Dylan was so young and has so many friends through school and hockey. She would like to see the funds raised help offset funeral/celebration of life expenses.

Plants help clean indoor air which helps people's health, said Pattenden, who has asthma, but no longer has to use a puffer after filling her house with plants.

"It's pretty amazing what live plants can do for your indoor environment. That's why I'm promoting it because people want to be healthy."

The rosemary plants cost $50. All proceeds above cost, $15 per plant, will be donated to the Gervais family. People can also make cash donations. For more information call 705-333-9678 or visit Pattendens' Facebook and Instagram pages.

Jessica Carriere set up a GoFundMe page entitled The Gervais Family while Dylan was undergoing cancer treatments. It raised $32,690 of its $40,000 goal. The update on Oct. 4 stated that Dylan had been undergoing treatment at Sunnybrook for more than two months and that the funds raised was spent during that time.

During the 18U Orillia Royals opening weekend this spring, Gervais was with his teammates to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

“I will remember that for the rest of my life,” he said afterwards. “It was very emotional.”

Gervais says being on the diamond and getting to play for even a single pitch was the best feeling in the world.

“Being able to be on the field with my teammates even though it was for only one pitch, was awesome,” he said. “I got to walk off the field on my terms so to speak.”

-with files from Tyler Evans

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Gisele Winton Sarvis

About the Author: Gisele Winton Sarvis

Gisele Winton Sarvis is an award winning journalist and photographer who has focused on telling the stories of the people of Simcoe County for more than 25 years
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