Drew Patchin, 10, was excited to attend a Halloween party during his September visit to Disney World. But his family had an even bigger wish: Treat Patchin, who has has ependymoma, a rare kind of brain tumor, and his supportive younger brother, Tyler, as if they were celebrities while at they were at the park.
Thanks to one TikTok creator, the family’s wish — which they first shared in a Facebook group for people going to the park’s event — went viral and came true.
Patchin has been battling cancer since 2019 and has undergone multiple surgeries to extract recurring tumors in his brain. His most recent tumor, which was discovered in February, had spread to his brain stem, rendering it partially inoperable.
Drew and Tyler’s mother, Jennifer Patchin, 42, said doctors told the family to “go make memories and travel” while they looked into more clinical trials for the tumor.
The family, including aunt Debbie Schultz, Jennifer’s sister, wanted to give Drew and Tyler the celebrity treatment so that they felt special. They had no idea that Kristen Sotakoun, 33, known as notkahnjunior on TikTok, would see Schultz’s post.
Drew Patchin hugs one of the Seven Dwarves at Disney World.Courtesy Jennifer Patchin
Sotakoun, who has 1.1 million followers on TikTok, shared the family’s request on her page. She called on Disney World cast members to play along. The video has received 1.4 million views.
“This is the easiest way to make magic ever, right? There is no effort required from anybody, really. And it could make such a big impact,” Sotakoun said of her decision to share the family’s story.
The video had a significant and shocking impact, Schultz said. She said that, in less than 10 minutes after arriving at the park, Drew was approached by a cast member for an autograph. She said the family was then stopped every 15 minutes by people who recognized Drew and Tyler.
Patchin said the kids were so excited by the attention and that the experience was “magical.”
“It was over seven hours of people making a big deal over them and going, ‘Oh my gosh! You’re famous, I get to see you. I’ve been waiting for you. I’m so glad I got to see you.’ And then snapping selfies with them or giving them a sticker,” she said.
Social media users who weren’t at the park that evening shared their support for the kids by joining the Facebook group for Drew’s cancer journey and sharing encouraging messages, Patchin said.
Drew Patchin hugs Winnie the Pooh at Disney World.Courtesy Jennifer Patchin
Sotakoun posted a follow-up video showing photos of the family. The TikTok received 6.7 million views and thousands of comments.
Sotakoun, who is a former Disney World cast member, said that most of the support stemmed from social media, rather than her connections at the park.
“This was completely the result of TikTok and completely the result of sharing on social media. I didn’t ask my personal friends for any special treatment. This is 100% organically the power of people coming together on social media and having one goal of kindness,” Sotakoun said.
The small acts of kindness that the family has received since their story went viral have made a big impact, Patchin said.
“Pediatric cancer families go through really hard stuff and something like this can make such a difference in our mindset and attitude. We’re trying to make memories, have a special time together and stay helpful and positive. And this, both the night as it was happening and those reactions online, really make a difference in helping us in the fight,” Patchin said.
Daysia Tolentino is a culture and trends reporter for NBC News.