The family of a young boy from McDade, who died from a rare form of West Nile virus, spent Sunday celebrating his life.
On October 9, Cody Hopkins’ rodeo family said goodbye to the 13 year old.
“Cody had the heart of gold. It was a huge heart. He would've taken his shirt off and gave it to someone in need and that's just the way Cody was,” said Clint Hopkins, Cody’s uncle.
Doctors believe Cody was bitten by a mosquito carrying the West Nile virus a few weeks ago.
“It happened very suddenly, actually, his mom and dad were on a cruise and he was in my care when it initially started happening and I just noticed Thursday night after his football game he wasn't all there,” said Cody’s aunt, Jessica Hopkins.
Cody was diagnosed with West Nile encephalitis, a form of the virus which causes severe swelling in the brain. Doctors tried everything they could, but the virus was too strong.
“From start to finish, it was nine days. That's how rapidly that virus took him, but the entire time, something I absolutely envied about Cody was, he was never afraid,” Jessica said.
But Cody’s courage was evident long before he got sick.
“Cody was a bull rider,” said Clint.
“This was exactly where he was every Thursday and Saturday night. Just wanting to fulfill that thirst he had on the back of a bull. He loved rodeo,” Jessica said.
That’s why when Cody’s family was trying to plan the proper goodbye; they knew exactly where to turn. Sunday was the first Cody Hopkins Memorial Bull Riding event and Cody’s friends, family members and idols all showed up to ride in his honor.
“It's got a little bit more meaning just cause Cody’s touched a lot of people's hearts and was so close to so many people and it's definitely a privilege to be his Uncle Clint,” said Clint.
While the event helped raise money for the Hopkins family, it was also meant to educate people about the threat of West Nile.
“We feel like West Nile has been completely swept under the rug, like people don't even think about it anymore, and I have two little ones, one that was Cody’s girl, and she doesn't go outside now without bug spray,” Jessica said.
And even though Cody may be physically gone, Sunday, his friends and family felt his presence as strong as a bull.
“I know Cody’s watching and he's got the biggest smile on his face,” said Jessica.
To protect yourself against mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus, doctors advise that you follow what they call the four Ds. Drain any standing water on your property, dress in long sleeves and pants, use bug spray containing Deet and try to avoid going out at dusk or dawn when mosquitoes are most active.