All invited to mourn brave little Chace

By Katie Holland

Chace Topperwien's family say all those touched by the brave toddler's life are welcome to attend his funeral in Whakatane on Wednesday.

The 3-year-old Whakatane boy died on Friday from a rare and aggressive form of leukaemia. His plight attracted national attention after his parents, Ryan and Keri, took him to Britain for a drug trial in a last-ditch effort to save his life.

A message was posted on Chace's Facebook page yesterday with details of the funeral.

"Chace's service will be this Wednesday 20th June at the Liberty Center, Wairaka, Whakatane at 10am. We welcome you all, we know our boy has a special place in many people's hearts so if you want to come, please do."

That followed the announcement posted on the page on Friday.

"Our beautiful bubba, Chace Eriki Topperwien, passed away as peacefully as we could have ever wished for this afternoon in between his mummy and daddy in our bed.

sleep in heavenly peace beautiful boy, we love you with all our hearts. Time to go play with great Koko now, he has the meanest hammers and tools, and we told him to have the coolest go-kart waiting for you. No more mamae darling, time for a sleep now."

By last night, that post had been shared more than 300 times and had attracted more than 1800 comments. Many messages were from people who had never met Chace but had followed his battle through the regular and, at times, heart-wrenching updates from his mother.

Rotorua Aquatic Centre operations manager Colin Elstob was one of many Rotorua people who raised money for the family, combining with local swim coach Henk Gruepink and LJ Hookers to auction off a swim pack in March.

The father of two said he was devastated to hear the news, which made him just want to hug his own 4-year-old son now on holiday in England.

"It brings home the value of family," he said. "It shows how precious your kids are."

Mr Elstob never met Chace in person but, like many others, he would remember his "big heart" and "great smile".

"The little fella touched hearts," he said.

Chace and his parents went to Britain in April to take part in a drug trial at the Royal Marsden Hospital. Weeks later, they made the heartbreaking decision to bring Chace home because he was in so much pain. The family had hoped the treatment would fight the cancer long enough for Chace to have a second bone marrow transplant, his best chance of survival.

Mr and Mrs Topperwien put their professional lives on hold when Chace was diagnosed, and said they were glad to be spending each day with their boy.

"I'm sure one day we will look back on it and be glad we literally travelled to the ends of the earth for Chace.

"It didn't work, but we tried everything and that's all we have the power to do, try." Additional reporting APNZ

- Rotorua Daily Post

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