Jose Montaño was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a malignant and aggressive brain tumor, in April 2011. That same month, he underwent brain surgery at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, which successfully removed the golf-ball-size tumor from the base of his brain.

The following month, Jose started radiation therapy at Rady Children’s, which occurred every day for six weeks. Chemotherapy followed, which lasted 55 weeks and was completed in June 2012. In December 2012, the cancer returned to Jose’s spine, and he underwent chemotherapy once again. During this entire time, Jose was determined to fight his cancer and kept his family strong, with his smile, his concern for others, and by leading morning and night prayers.

While he was in the Hospital, Jose was approached by the Make a Wish Foundation. Instead of making a wish for himself, Jose asked for a new playground for his school. The playground, which was in better shape prior to his illness, had provided so much joy for Jose that he wanted other children to have the same experience.

This wish from Jose’s heart made him an instant local celebrity, and prayers and support poured in from across the United States and Mexico. On March 1, 2012, which was Jose’s 11th birthday, the Make a Wish Foundation unveiled the new playground at Jose’s school. News media, city council members, school district officials, and friends and family attended the event. And as a result of Jose’s generosity, the city of San Diego named March 13 Jose Montaño Day.

To continue to help others, Jose then started his own foundation. And in doing so, he drew strength.

Sadly, in April 2014, Jose lost his battle with cancer. His father, Jose Sr., said the family was grateful for each and every day they had with their son, who inspired everyone he met with his strength and selflessness.

The family will honor Jose and keep his memory alive by living life as Jose would have done.

“If we all work together we can change life one person at a time,” says Jose Sr. “We need to have faith, hope and never ever under any circumstance give up.”