WilliamMites (2 of 4)

Photos by Chris Gordon.

A few years ago, I wrote an article about a five-year-old boy named William Shannon who skated with the Capitals as part of the Make-A-Wish program. William had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It was a heartwarming story about a kid getting a little bit of joy despite a terrifying diagnosis he was probably too young to comprehend. A few days later, he was honored at Verizon Center with the jersey off Alex Semin’s back. It was a nice story, but one with an uncertain ending.

“Hockey is what has gotten him through,” his mom Sandy told me back in 2011. “Our hard days, our tough days, we are watching hockey. On our better days he’s playing hockey.”

Two-and-half years later, William is cancer-free. Monday night, he skated on the same Verizon Center ice he watched on TV from his home in West Virginia — a goalie during the first intermission Mites on Ice game. It doesn’t matter how he played. The triumph was being there — even if it was only for four minutes.

“Him in goal, on the ice in front of all those fans,” William’s father, Devin, said. “It was a thrill. It really was.”

Hockey has been William’s solace. And that’s still true, just with less burden off the ice. He’s been playing hockey since 2009, though he had to take breaks because of his cancer treatments. After years of chemotherapy, William, 8, has been cancer-free since February of this year. Originally a forward, William now switches between the net and the offensive zone.

“Hockey was a big part of his recovery,” said Devin. “Being diagnosed at the age of four with leukemia, it was always ‘Okay, how many more days until hockey?’”

The illness, inevitably, was hard on the family. William’s parents split up. They take turns driving him from their homes around Shepherdsville, WV to Frederick, Maryland, where he plays for the Freeze. Will’s dad is one of the coaches. They aren’t quite to the age when the 5 am practices start, but every drive to the rink takes 90 minutes roundtrip.

“It’s tiring at times,” Devin admitted, “but it’s definitely worth it to see your kid do something he loves.

For the record, William didn’t like that Philipp Grubauer got the start Monday night, a game the Caps lost. It turns out he’s a Braden Holtby partisan. He also likes this dude named Alex Ovechkin.

“They’re our life,” Sandy said of the team. “We live and die by Caps. We watch every game we can possibly get our hands on.”

Now, less than a year out of chemotherapy, William will now get on with a normal life. Illness, especially cancer, becomes an all-consuming enemy. He probably can’t remember what it’s like to be healthy.

“He is no longer a kid fighting to survive but a kid ready to pursue his dreams,” Sandy said.

Photos from Monday

WilliamMites (3 of 4)

WilliamMites (4 of 4)

WilliamMites (1 of 4)

Photos from 2011

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  • Ash

    I’m not crying, it’s just raining on my face.

    No, seriously, this was awesome to read. So glad to hear the good follow up news on him!

  • GetchaGrubbOn

    I’ve just been cutting onions. I’m making a lasagna.

  • Michael Reschly

    Whose that in the white jersey in the 2nd 2011 photo?

  • D.J. King

  • Michael Reschly


  • Laich Button

    DJ King.

  • serpent

    It would be so wonderful to see an older William in a Bears or Caps uni one day.

  • Michael01a

    my best wishes to William and his family. Merry X-mas.
    Hockey > sports
    Something, that makes me proud for the team.

  • Eileen Dailey Lucas

    What an awesome story! I love a happy ending!

  • Joben

    One of the first articles I read on RMNB was about William, great to know he’s cancer free.

  • VeggieTart

    I remember the Jersey Off Our Backs in which he got the Alex Semin jersey. Truly sweet moment.

    I’m glad to see he was back in net (didn’t connect the name when I heard it) as a Mite on Ice.

    Keep fighting, William!

  • Devin Shannon

    I agree!

  • Devin Shannon

    Thanks, Michael01a!

  • Devin Shannon

    Chris, thanks for writing this awesome article! Incredible photos, as usual!

  • Bob

    Kids and dogs, the most loving things on this planet

  • James Overman

    I am re-thinking burning my Semin jersey.

  • Devin Shannon

    Thanks to RMNB and everyone who has expressed their concern for William! We are very grateful! Go Caps!!!!!!

  • PG Mayberry

    Awesome kid! You go William. Live long and prosper.

  • Sandi

    Yay William – an honor to be a part of the Freeze organization with you and your family! The Browers