How schools honored a former Monroe star athlete who inspired with his cancer battle

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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His left leg was removed on his 18th birthday

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Two Butler County school districts rallied behind a 2018 Monroe High School graduate who lost his battle with bone cancer Friday at Cincinnati Children’s Liberty Campus.

Dominic Watkins, 19, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, three times since 2015. On Nov. 21, 2017, his 18th birthday, his left leg was amputated to eliminate the chance of the cancer spreading to other organs.

On Monday, students in Monroe were encouraged to wear gold, and in Middletown, students were asked to wear yellow in support of the young cancer victim. Hundreds of Monroe students, many of them who never met Watkins, wore gold shirts, said Principal Tom Prohaska.

“He had such a wonderful and infectious smile,” Prohaska said. “A heart of gold, really.”

The principal said the district’s crisis team was available at school Monday in case any students or staff needed counseling. He visited Watkins last month and knew he was “going downhill.”

One Middletown elementary school teacher used Watkins’ death as a learning tool for her students. Anedra Million, a second-grade teacher at Wildwood, had her students make yellow wristbands and hats in support of Watkins. She knew Watkins because he was her daughter’s friend.

The students wrote notes on a poster and placed the items in a time capsule, she said. She talked to her students about cancer and many of them said they knew someone with the disease.

Million said it also was important to “show solidarity” between the two Butler districts. She described Watkins as “always so happy, bubbly.”

For years, Watkins dated Adriana Browning, a Middletown High cheerleader.

Even as he battled bone cancer, Watkins lived to make life better for others, his sister Aaliyha Johnson said.

“He just wanted people to be happy,” Johnson said. “Even when things were the worst, he had a way to smile and be happy.”

Cancer cut short his once-promising athletic career, in which he starred in track, basketball and football at Monroe.

In 2017, after being diagnosed for the third time, Watkins partnered with the nonprofit Smilebooks Project to write a book titled “Dominic’s Best Game.”

Two days before his death, Watkins, surrounded by about 20 family and friends, was baptized while lying in his hospital bed. Johnson said every time people visited her brother in the hospital, he insisted they pray together.

“He never lost faith,” she said. “He always believed in God and his goodness. He said Jesus would take care of him. He believed in the power of emotional happiness and the power of healing.”

Five doves were released Saturday at the hospital in memory of Watkins.

Last spring, as Watkins prepared to graduate from Monroe, he was interviewed about the cancer and his prognosis.

“You are never promised tomorrow,” he said. “I try to live my life to the fullest.”

Besides his sister, his survivors include his parents, Nicholas Garcia Rose and Alondra Johnson, and brother Cameron Watkins.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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