OLATHE, Kan. -- An 11-year-old hero has donated his bone marrow to save his little brother's life. The young hero returned from Philadelphia on Friday where the donation took place.
Friends and family gathered in Olathe on Friday to honor 11 year old Zachary Hofen for his bravery, after he donated his bone marrow to his little brother, who has been fighting leukemia.
"It was quite a surprise," said Hofen, about the crowd outside his house as he pulled up.
Hofen had just returned home from Philadelphia where he donated his bone marrow cells Monday to his nine-year-old brother, Braden.
"If I didn't donate, he would die," said Hofen.
Hofen’s dad, Brian Hofen, says his youngest son, Braden, has had an extended battle with childhood cancer. Through various treatments over the years, this past July, Braden was diagnosed with treatment induced pre-leukemia. The next step was a bone marrow transplant in order to take a curative path.
"Cancer is something that affects the whole family," said Brian. "In doing that search, turned out that his brother Zachary, who is now 11 years old, is the only match in the world.”
Hofen says the donation wasn’t exactly easy to go through.
"They poked me about 50 times," he said.
Brian is exceptionally grateful and proud of his older son for going through with it.
"I couldn't be prouder," added Brian. "It's a situation where he recognized that being the match, it needed to be done, and he's been extremely brave throughout the whole process. No child wants to get stuck with needles."
Friends and family came up with the idea to give Hofen a hero's welcome when he returned from giving the donation. Members of the Olathe Fire Department came to show their support, and members of the military also attended to honor Hofen, and presented him with a plaque for his bravery.
"They harvested them in about a two and a half hour procedure, and in about three and a half to four hours later, Zach and Braden were side by side in Braden's room, and Zach got to see those cells go into Braden," said the boys’ father, Brian.
Brian says they wanted to celebrate Hofen’s bravery and hopefully encourage other kids not to be afraid in a situation like this.
"Help other people. That's the values that most every parent and person in this world is trying to instill in children, and so why wouldn't we want to reinforce that," Brian added.
Braden is still in Philadelphia recovering, but he'll be able to come home in 90 to 100 days if all goes well.