Family says Reef Carneson, former Mason Elementary student with cancer, has died

Posted at 4:15 PM, Jun 05, 2021

MASON, Ohio — Reef Carneson, a 12-year-old with leukemia and a former Mason Elementary student, has passed away, according to his family.

According to their Facebook page "Rock it 4 Reef," Reef died peacefully in his sleep on Friday night.

"Our family is unbelievably grateful for the huge outpouring of love, as we deal with the passing of our most precious boy," their post read. "The pain is unbearable and days from here on will have a heaviness and emptiness that can never be filled."

Reef was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at five months old, according to the family's website The family, originally from South Africa, moved to Los Angeles to get treatment for Reef in 2011.

They came to Cincinnati in 2015 for care at Cincinnati Children's. After putting out a call for help on social media, and, through a charity organization, a pilot volunteered his time and his plane to fly the Carnesons to Cincinnati, according to a 2015 WCPO report.

In 2017, Reef gained national fame when singer Pharrell Williams learned that one of Reef’s dreams was to meet him. The singer hired a private car to drive the then-8-year-old from Cincinnati to a concert in Philadelphia, and he brought Reef up on stage as he serenaded him with "Happy."

In April 2021, doctors told Reef's parents that the cancer has spread to his lungs and no more treatment options were available. Reef was taken home to spend quality time with his family.

The Mason City School District released the following statement on Facebook:

"It is with deep sadness that we share that one of our Comet Kids, Reef Carneson, passed away after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Earlier this year, Reef and his family had to relocate to the United Kingdom as they pursued a new treatment option. Reef was a bright light in the halls of the Mason Early Childhood Center and Mason Elementary, and his indomitable spirit touched the lives of all who knew him. Our hearts ache for his family, including his sisters Payten and Kenzie, and parents Lydia and Ryan. Mason City Schools’ Crisis Team is available for families and staff in the days ahead. If you or your child is in need of support, please contact our Mental Wellness Director Nicole Pfirman at"

For more information on how you can help the Carneson family during this time, click here.