Kohn family

Chris and Meghan Kohn hold their then 6-month-old son, Will, in 2011. The 7-year-old, who was diagnosed with large B-cell lymphoma in early January and battled heart issues throughout his short life, passed away Saturday.


Students and staff at Pleasant Valley High on Wednesday may wear hats to school in honor of Will Kohn, a former member of the Spartans' community, who died Saturday.

To participate, students must contribute $5, which will be donated to the Kohn family and the Lymphoma Research Foundation, a New York City-based nonprofit organization. Staff members may sport hats and jeans for $8.

Students usually are not allowed to wear hats in class, principal Mike Zimmer said.

"Anytime you ban something," he said, "it makes it extra special when you waive the rule."

'His personality filled the room': PV community mourns loss of Will Kohn

Spartan Assembly, the school's student government association, organized the effort. The Athletic Booster Club also sold "Will Strong" apparel Tuesday during lunch in the school's cafeteria. 

Will, the 7-year-old son of longtime Pleasant Valley High science teacher Chris Kohn, was diagnosed with large B-cell lymphoma in early January. He suffered a fatal infection that formed in his intestine, stemming from the cancer.

But his health issues began when he was born with a rare congenital heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Stacie Giesecke, an instructional coach at the school, considers Chris and his wife, Meghan, family. Giesecke coordinated the institution's first fundraiser for the Kohns during Meghan's pregnancy.

Over the years, Will's parents shared updates about their son's status on the Facebook page, "Team Will - Where there's a Will there's a way." 

He was a student in Lisa Bradley's kindergarten class at Riverdale Heights Elementary School during the first half of the 2016-17 school year. In early January 2017, he was the first patient admitted to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital's new building in Iowa City, and in September, he underwent a heart transplant.

Students and staff regularly monitored the Team Will page and encouraged each other to wear Will Strong-themed T-shirts in support of the boy every "Will Wednesday."


Jack Cullen uncovers different slices of life for the Quad-City Times. He previously covered the city of Bettendorf. When he's not reporting, Jack enjoys coaching tennis and exploring the outdoors.