Keegan Keppner is only 10 years old, but he knows what it's like to struggle. His parents are both unemployed and he has been fighting a rare and terminal form of brain cancer that has required multiple rounds of chemotherapy.
But this week, he is not worried about himself. He wants to make sure the city of Eugene takes care of the homeless, who are being shuffled out of a tent community called Whoville camp.
"It's sad to see them suffer," Keegan, fourth grade math whiz, told ABCNews.com. "There are a lot of nice people down there."
On Jan. 15, the city replaced "no camping" signs with "no trespassing" signs, which, if violated, could result in arrests, according to the local television station, WVAL.
So Keegan and his stepfather, Steven Macgray, decided to cook up a pot of rice and beans and take it down to the 18 or so homeless people. Magray said Keegan had been worried about the city's homeless population since last December.
"It's on his bucket list," said Macgray, 36.
"He would see a lot of homeless guys on the street and give them dollar bills here and there," he told ABCNews.com. "It's been controversial here – the homeless are getting pushed out of the city. One guy named Ken was crying on TV and it really struck Keegan. He looked at me and said, 'We really need to do something.'"
"He wants everyone to know that the homeless are just like you and me," said Macgray. "He understands some are there by choice and others are not there by choice."
Keegan told his parents he wanted to give up Christmas dinner to feed everyone. "I kind of put it off to the side and said, 'Let's hold off on that," said he stepfather. "'We're not in the best position ourselves.'"
Magray and his wife Kimberli met and married in Nevada where they were gold miners. Keegan was only 3 and had been diagnosed with glioma, a rare and terminal brain cancer. But by 2012, Keegan's mother had a work-related injury to her Achilles tendon and lost her job, and the couple cashed out their 401Ks and moved to a mobile home in Oregon, where life was more affordable.
Keegan is in remission now after undergoing two rounds of chemotherapy. The family is hopeful, but "you just never know," said Magray.
"I feel really good," said Keegan.
Even with the canker sores that inevitably came with the chemotherapy, "He woke up with a smile on his face very day," said his stepfather.
The city plans to evict the homeless, so Keegan and his stepfather cooked up one more big batch of chili, which they were to take down to park on Martin Luther King Day. "He wants to make sure they get one last hot meal before they are dispersed,' said Macgray.
The issue of homelessness is a controversial one, and some of the comments online have been negative, but Keegan said, "No matter what happens, you always get some good out of it – no matter what you are faced with."
Macgray said Keegan is not only optimistic about his cancer, but about other people, too.
"It's his disposition, ever since I met Keegan," said Magray. "He'll always give you the shirt off his back and he doesn't care who you are."
He, too had been homeless for a time while living in Alaska. "I wanted to teach Keegan about the diversity or culture out there," said Macgray. "If he does survive, it will make him a better leader in the future."
- Society & Culture
- Homelessness & Housing