ELKINS - Folks shopping in Kroger stores Thursday were greeted by employees wearing grey T-shirts and ribbons - not only in Elkins and West Virginia, but throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
Those employees wanted to help share the memory of Brandon George, a 14-year old boy who lost his battle with brain cancer last year.
Elkins Kroger employee Kathy Locke said Brandon George was her great nephew.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Candy Hodges-George, of Buckhannon, releases 14 balloons Thursday at Elkins Kroger in memory of her son Brandon, who died in 2013 following his courageous fight with brain cancer. Kroger employees in Elkins and across the region donned grey T-shirts and ribbons in honor of Brandon and for brain tumor awareness.
"He lived in Buckhannon with his parents, Mark and Candy Hodges-George," Locke said. "His illness came as a shock. He was fine one day and then took a seizure. Two weeks later, his parents found out he had a brain tumor."
Locke said Brandon was given six months to live following his diagnosis - but he lived 18 months, and those around him tried to make every precious day as normal as possible.
"It just makes you stop and look at life a little more," Locke said. "A year following his original diagnosis, he had another seizure. During the in-between time, he was very active and loved to camp. He was a Boy Scout from the time he was old enough to be one. It just makes you stop and look at your life a lot differently."
Chelsey Lewis, administrative assistant at Kroger in Elkins, said Locke came up with the idea of wearing grey shirts for Brandon's memory and to raise awareness.
"We spun it and all Kroger stores in the district are wearing grey today in support," Lewis said. "The Columbus division of Kroger is wearing grey as well. The support of this event spreads through the mid-Atlantic region."
Lewis said the store gathered 14 balloons - one for each year of Brandon's life - and tagged them in support of brain cancer awareness with Thursday's date.
Another Elkins Kroger employee, Robin Rohrbaugh, said Brandon loved to camp.
"He was always the first one to get me wet in the river," Rohrbaugh said. "He loved to fish. He loved to ride his bike. The last time he was at camp, we wheeled him up through the field in his wheelchair."
A display in the front of the Elkins Kroger store Thursday featured photos of Brandon, balloons, ribbons and a Spirit of the Eagle Award for Boy Scout Troop 100. Brandon was a member of the Tennerton United Methodist Church, the Boy Scouts of America Troop 100 and had completed the eighth grade at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School. He enjoyed camping, bike riding, scouts and restoring antique tractors.
Brandon's mom Candy Hodges-George, his aunt Vivian Payne and grandmother Violet Hodges traveled from Buckhannon to join in the celebration of Brandon's life.
"It floored me when they shared the responses from folks," Candy Hodges-George said. "People in other states, counties and towns face cancer - I knew people cared but when it hits a 14-year-old, I think it smacks people in the face. You think kids should be an adult before they pass away."
"Brandon was outgoing but soft-spoken. He was stubborn - when he got sick he was even more stubborn," she said.