When Bill Kohler saw his son Ayden fall during a practice for his baseball team, he didn't worry too much.
Ayden was a healthy and active 9-year-old who loved every kind of sport, but when he seemed to have a hard time standing up after the fall his father became more concerned. A trip to the doctor quickly confirmed his worst fears.
Ayden was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a rare and deadly form of childhood cancer. Doctors also found a pair of tumors on the young boy's brain, and told Bill his son had less than a year to live.
To make things worse, over the next few months Ayden's speech and motor skills got worse and worse, a side effect of the cancer. Ayden's family took him from one doctor's appointment to the next, but soon it was obvious the treatments weren't effective.
This was difficult for Bill to accept, because of his time helping wounded soldiers while serving in the Army. "I was a medic in the war, you know, and you fix things," he told USA Today, "and this was something I couldn't even touch."
Determined to make the most of their last few months together, Bill made a Bucket List of fun activities, and you can see from the photos that Ayden loved every minute of it.
First and foremost, Bill and Ayden spent as much time as possible doing things they both loved, like hunting and fishing.
But they also did things that would never have seemed possible before Ayden's diagnosis. They attended lots of football games for free, and received backstage passes to meet WWE wrestlers and the Harlem Globetrotters.
Ayden also got to fulfill his dream of being a football coach, first for his local Eastern York County team and then for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He even had a 1-on-1 meeting with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
But some of the most meaningful moments were the smallest, like his chance to hold a handful of bear cubs, which was arranged by the local Game Comission. Even celebrities like Duff Goldman from Ace of Cakes and celebrity chef Guy Fieri called Ayden to wish him well.
To cover the costs of all these events, strangers raised almost $90,000 for the Kohler family on GoFundMe. Sadly, just 8 months after his diagnosis, Ayden passed away.
It was much too soon, but at least his father knows that he was able to fill Ayden's life with love before he was gone.
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