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Escondido boy battling brain cancer passes away

Posted at 6:19 PM, Feb 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-28 21:36:16-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The East Valley Community Center's basketball court is a little quieter this week for Coach Al Owens.

While he teaches the fundamentals of the game, he knows the biggest lesson isn't that.

"It's not what you do on the court. It's what you do on the court," he said. "We want you to be a great human being, and that's what Joshua was- a great human being."

Joshua Whitten was one of his players.

He didn't let anything stop him, not even a brain cancer diagnosis.

"He still wanted to be a part of his team," he said. "He still wanted to help his teammates."

Joshua's bravery didn't just capture his coach's heart. He stole the entire Escondido community's heart back in August after ABC 10News sat down with his mother and him.

"Every day I want to take away any pain he has - any appointments he has to go to," his mom said. "I'd rather be going through it than him."

"Mom, you can't go through this," Joshua answered.

Joshua's battle with brain cancer ended Friday. It was a little over a year after it began.

His coach walked in as Joshua took his last breath.

"I gave him a hug. I gave him a kiss on the cheek, and I said there were no goodbyes," he said. "I'll see you later. When I see you later, we'll be in heaven playing basketball."

Joshua had a charismatic and unrelenting spirit, and he wouldn't want the spotlight on himself.

So, his family is asking for donations to be sent to the cure starts now and will go towards pediatric brain cancer research.

"He was definitely bigger than himself. He always wanted to help other people, and he was just wise beyond his years," he said. "Almost sometimes like you were talking to a little adult."

Owens said if Joshua could say one thing, he'd say he's okay.

"He would say, 'I'm in heaven now, and I'm playing basketball. And I'm ready for you to come to get me again, coach,'" he said.

Joshua's services will be held on March 4 at 1:30 p.m. at Grace San Marcos. The family asks the community to wear superhero shirts to the services.