Teen Leaves School to Help Dying Friend Complete Bucket List: 'We've Done Everything Together'
Dillon Hill is doing all he can to make sure his best friend Chris Betancourt enjoys the remainder of his life to the fullest
Last year, Dillon Hill learned that his best friend, Chris Betancourt, had just two years left to live after his leukemia returned. Now, the 19-year-old is doing all he can to make sure his friend enjoys life to the fullest.
Hill dropped out of UC Davis last fall to help Betancourt, 20, come up with a bucket list of more than 125 things he hoped to experience while he was still able. Then, Hill took it one step further: he would personally accompany his pal to tick off every item on the list.
“We’ve always done everything together,” Hill tells PEOPLE, noting that he and Betancourt, both of Sacramento, have been close friends since the fourth grade. “The hallmark of our friendship is video games — we play them as a day-to-day escape. And we’ve also faced several tragedies together.”
Hill was right by Betancourt’s side when the he was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia in the fifth grade, and he supported his best friend through the painful bone marrow treatments. During their freshman year in high school, the pair grieved the suicide of Betancourt’s 16-year-old sister, Kaitlyn.
Last October, Betancourt called Hill with devastating news: his cancer had returned.
“We talked for a long time and I knew that he was genuinely afraid of missing out on life,” Hill tells PEOPLE. “It really struck a nerve in me. Here I was, going to college and trying to set up the rest of my life, and that had all been cut off for Chris. So after thinking about it, I decided, ‘Why not spend a year doing incredible things with my best friend?’ ”
From having a pillow fight with strangers to tasting the world’s hottest pepper and flying an airplane, the friends have documented Betancourt’s bucket list through “One List, One Life” on YouTube, Facebook and “My Best Friend’s List,” where followers can sign up to become bone marrow donors, buy gaming headsets for children’s hospitals and contribute to GoFundMe donations to help finance Betancourt’s latest bucket list wish.
Currently, funds are being raised for Item No. 60 — a backpacking trip through Europe.
The pair is also hoping to shoot a grenade launcher through Las Vegas, dive with sharks, walk down a fashion runway, meet Johnny Depp and participate in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“There are no words for Dillon’s kindness,” Betancourt’s mother, Alexandra Betancourt, tells PEOPLE. “To drop everything and give up a year of school to do this for Christopher is incredible. It gives me hope to know there are people like this in the world.”
“My doctor says the odds of finding a bone marrow match are half as hard as winning the lottery,” adds Betancourt, who dreams of becoming a police officer. “So getting to spend time with my best friend and forget about those odds has really boosted my spirits. I’m forever thankful to him for giving me these opportunities.”
Whether it be buying 100 fast food hamburgers to feed homeless people, getting matching tattoos or eating at a buffet until they were asked to leave, Hill says he and Betancourt are determined to experience all life has to offer.
“Our bucket list doesn’t have an end,” he says. “We’re going to to keep adding to it.”
The ultimate wish, of course, would be to find a bone marrow match for Betancourt.
“I’m trying to remain hopeful and just keep on appreciating the small things in life,” Betancourt tells PEOPLE. “You can’t overlook how beautiful the day is, how gorgeous the sunrise is or the simple pleasure of going home to crack open something to drink and be with your family. Life is about enjoying the little things that most people take for granted. Because the next day, you never know when it could all be gone.”