In the difficult few weeks since the passing of their son, Zack, at the tender age of 18, Tania and Wayne Downey have been floored by the outpouring of support from people around their various communities.
“I didn’t really realize the impact Zack and our journey had on people until he passed away,” Tania said. “We’re just blown away, to be quite honest.”
Langford resident Zack died May 25 after a long battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer that affects the lymphatic system.
A celebration of life will be held Thursday (June 19) at The Q Centre from 1 to 4 p.m. The site was an easy choice, not only for the expectation of 1,000 or more mourners, but because West Shore Parks and Recreation was the hub of Zack’s sports life growing up, Tania said.
“He played basketball and lacrosse there, rode his bike on the BMX track, played on the soccer field, played ice hockey in the rink.”
While he remained a huge basketball fan to the end, baseball was his passion. He was a member of the Victoria Mariners midget team and attended the baseball academy at Lambrick Park secondary. By the time he was diagnosed in Grade 11, in November 2012, he had already begun eyeing potential colleges to apply for baseball scholarships.
The news, and the resulting treatment – it lasted 16 months – set him back somewhat, Tania said, but his determination really kept him going.
His simple goal, after being told in March that his cancer was incurable, was to make it to his high school graduation ceremony. He missed it by about a week.
“Right up to the last, he was optimistic that he’d get there,” his mom said. While Zack was weakened from treatments, she said, “all he wanted was to go to school, be with his friends and sit in a class, those simple things that people take for granted. He wanted that so bad during treatment.”
The Downeys, who have a 14-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, have received an overwhelming amount of well-wishes and condolences around the school, baseball and general communities. But that hasn’t told them anything they didn’t already know about their son.
“We always knew how great a kid Zack was,” Tania said. “He went through this amazing battle very stoically. We are so proud of him as a family and we do hope that he’s made a little bit of a difference in everybody’s life he touched. He’s a pretty amazing kid and will be missed greatly.”
While their grief is still very much at the surface, she said, the Downeys hope that at some point they’re able to help other families going through similar situations.
“Our community was there for us and we’re so grateful for that.”
Send us your Zack stories
Popular 18-year-old Langford resident Zack Downey was a talented baseball player who relished the opportunity to play any sport. He was also a great guy and a good friend, say those who knew him best.
We’d love for you to share some special thoughts on how Zack affected your life.
Please email your messages to firstname.lastname@example.org, post them at Goldstream News Gazette on Facebook or drop them at our office at 106-2800 Bryn Maur Rd. We will pass them on to the Downey family.
Don Descoteau, Acting Editor