WOODWAY — A hot day, a box of Popsicles, some Silly String, a good place to ride scooters, and a passel of kids. The afternoon had all the makings of a carefree summer. For the guest of honor, a boy battling cancer, it was time to join in the goofy fun of childhood.
In chalk on the driveway, big letters spelled out: “We will miss you Quintin.”
Eight-year-old Quintin Hall lives in Moscow, Idaho, with his mom, Jacqy Vorderbrueggen. This summer, for about six weeks, their home away from home was with Woodway’s Lisa and Justin Marquart and their four children, ages 8 to 14.
Quintin has stage 4 neuroblastoma, a cancer that begins in nerve cells. Diagnosed at age 6, his battle has included surgery, radiation, five rounds of chemotherapy, and two bone marrow transplants. Those treatments were primarily at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in Spokane through the Providence Pediatric Oncology and Hematology department.
In recent weeks, Quintin spent considerable time at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where he had T-cell therapy. His treatment, for recurrent neuroblastoma, was part of a clinical trial. His mom said he was treated by Dr. Julie Park and Dr. Navin Robert Pinto, oncologists.
On Thursday, Vorderbrueggen was able to let out a deep sigh of relief. She learned how the T-cell infusion trial appeared to be working for Quintin. “The pictures showed he’s stable — he’s stable for now,” the 27-year-old mother said.
Arriving back at the Marquarts’ from Children’s that afternoon, she and her son were in for a surprise. Lisa Marquart had gathered three of her kids along with close neighbors Melody McGowan and her two boys. “The kids are having a simple Popsicle party together to celebrate Quintin,” Marquart said.
All the kids — Quintin with his hospital wristband still on — rode scooters down the Marquarts’ sloped driveway, chased each other with Silly String, made a snap-crack racket throwing down Pop-Its noisemakers, and found a shady spot to eat Popsicles. Quintin received gifts, among them a set of magic tricks.
It was a sweet farewell before the boy and his mom left last weekend with members of their family to visit the ocean — which Quintin had never seen. Soon, it’s back to Idaho. Vorderbrueggen hopes her son will be able to go to school this year. He attended kindergarten, but wasn’t able to finish later grades.
“I’m going to miss you,” said Marquart, 45, with her arm around Quintin’s shoulder.
The Woodway family’s gift was much more than a place to stay for a family that couldn’t afford weeks in a hotel. It was a chance for Quintin, the only child of a single mom, to spend part of his summer having fun with the Marquart kids — 8-year-old Kate, Alex, 11, Jonathan, 13, and William, 14 — and neighbors Jack and Max McGowan, ages 7 and 9.
With the Marquart kids involved in football, swimming and other activities, Quintin became part of their on-the-go life. “The clinical trial he’s in is significant, but this child is also living a real life here,” Marquart said. “He’s being a little boy.”
Quintin and his mom had their own living quarters at the Marquarts’ home, which sits on more than 2 acres overlooking Puget Sound. Yet Marquart said their young visitor felt so comfortable with her, he was often in the kitchen chatting while she had her morning coffee.
Marquart and her husband both graduated from Washington State University, where she was a swimmer and he played baseball. Justin Marquart later was director of development for WSU’s College of Business, and they lived for a time in the Pullman area.
They learned about Quintin and his mom needing a temporary home in a friend-of-a-friend type of email asking if they could help find a place. A Ronald McDonald House, a nonprofit offering shelter for children and families with medical needs, was full at the time, Marquart said. Vorderbrueggen, who has worked as a caregiver for seniors, had quit her job due to Quintin’s needs. She hopes to continue her education.
It didn’t take long for Marquart to decide their home would be a place of refuge for the pair. She felt a kinship with Vorderbrueggen and her battle for Quintin’s life.
Without elaborating, Marquart said one of her children has had some chronic health issues — “quite manageable” — that once left her feeling overwhelmed while navigating the medical system.
Marquart also has memories of living in Eastern Washington, where people share small-town “we’re in this together” connections. She hopes others “will experience health care and community like we did this summer.”
As the kids rode scooters, played in the shady yard, and got sticky eating icy treats, Vorderbrueggen gave Marquart a big hug — mom to mom. “She is very easy to talk to,” the younger mother said. “I feel like I was placed here for a reason.”
Vorderbrueggen has a Facebook page, Quintin’s Quest. On Sunday, she posted a thank-you note about the Marquarts.
“If I had any question that a God existed, they were answered,” she wrote. “The kids instantly took Quin in as their own. They didn’t treat him differently, they treated him like a normal kid. … They gave Quin a normal summer and priceless memories.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald net.com.