ABC7 Stars: Doctor makes a difference in Santa Clara community

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KGO) -- ABC7 is recognizing a doctor whose unexpected friendship with a patient changed his life and his community.

The JW House is meant to be a home away from home. It's for family of patients who need an extended stay at local hospitals.

The pristine home sits in the parking lot of the Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center.

It's adorned with gorgeous roses on the outside, and welcoming furniture on the inside.

However, this story is not about the building, it's about a volunteer and the unexpected friendship that started it all. "First of all this is my baby, this is JW's baby, this is the Knapen's baby, when you have your baby you're not going to let go," pediatric oncologist Alan Wong, M.D., said.

"He's an authentic human being who loves JW, loves JW House," JW House family service director April Bignell said.

More than a decade ago, Wong, a pediatric oncologist, had a special patient named JW Knapen and the two forged a unique bond. "I would say I love him and we're friends. Before he died we were so tight," Wong said.

JW died of Leukemia just before his 17th birthday. In his short life, JW wanted to build a home for families in situations similar to his.

The teenager raised an initial $10,000 and gave the money to Wong, asking the doctor for help to make it a reality. "Suddenly I became a fundraiser too, and then I become a businessman, too," Wong said.

When JW died in 2005, Wong and others continued to raise money and eventually went through with plans, opening the doors in 2008. "They loved each other very dearly and if nothing else that's what really forged that relationship, that seed and wonderful love they shared through this dream that gave JW hope, that gave his family hope, and now certainly has given thousands of people hope," Bignell said.

Wong is there every Saturday. "I learned to do laundry at the JW house," he said.

"He's so humble and the way he gives back. He doesn't have to volunteer. It's just a wonderful example of volunteerism and compassion, and empathy," Bignell said.

Wong says his friendship with JW brought big changes, like the creation of the non-profit and small changes. "JW changed me, we never hug people in Asia. We don't hug people."

However, now he does.

JWs mom said Wong is just a really good human being and has become a family friend, saying: "He went above and beyond."

Click here for more information on the JW House.

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