EAGLE POINT — After battling for more than two years against a rare form of childhood cancer, 9-year-old Ethan Jostad of Eagle Point died Monday surrounded by his family.

EAGLE POINT — After battling for more than two years against a rare form of childhood cancer, 9-year-old Ethan Jostad of Eagle Point died Monday surrounded by his family.

The young baseball player, who collected nearly 5,000 Facebook friends and amassed more than 15,900 "likes" on his Team Ethan Facebook page, died Monday at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland around 2 p.m.

According to the family's journal at www.caringbridge.org, where the boy's webpage had garnered more than 529,000 visits, he had been on pain medication and primarily asleep in recent weeks as his body began to succumb to the disease he had battled twice during his short life.

Ethan's mom, Kim Jostad, said she and her family feel overwhelming gratitude for the support they have received from the Rogue Valley community.

"That's the one thing that's helping with this ... just how many people actually cared for our child," Jostad said Tuesday.

"It saddens me to think that so many other families go through this, and it's a very lonely process, and I'm thinking here we have thousands of people who know who my child is and what he's been through and have helped to make him feel loved and cared for."

Family friend Wendy Gormon of Eagle Point said friends of the Jostads had held out hope that "Ethan would be that one ... who beat it and went on to live a great life. His smile was magnetic. He was a very special boy who was willing to give anybody a hug, whether he knew them or not," she said.

"His family is the same way. They're very loving and caring to everyone. Even during this horrible time they've had to go through for two years, they managed to embrace the people who have supported their son and make them feel like part of their family."

First diagnosed in 2009, Ethan suffered from alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, which originates in the soft tissues of the body and causes tumors to form.

Family friend Teri Triem of Medford said family and friends watched a grinning 9-year-old walk off a plane at the Rogue Valley airport, eager to see how many Facebook friends he had amassed, just a few weeks ago.

Supporters vowed to "turn Facebook yellow" with banners and profile pictures dedicated to the boy.

"Obviously, at this point, everyone is just devastated to have lost him," Triem said. "As a community, we have lost somebody great that touched a lot of lives."

Triem said thousands of local residents and even supporters from around the world sent encouraging words to Ethan's family online. Local businesses and citizens, most of whom never met Ethan, hosted fundraising efforts from bowling and skating events to car washes and yard sales.

A "Third Annual Ethan Jostad Softball Tournament" is set for Sept. 17. The event began when Ethan was first diagnosed two years ago and will continue as a memorial to the boy. Field No. 8 at the Southern Oregon Fields in White City, home of the Upper Rogue Cal Ripken youth baseball league, will be named in Ethan's honor. Jostad said she and Ethan's father, Chris Jostad, hope to help other families facing childhood cancer as a way of honoring their son's memory.

"We're feeling relief that he's finally out of pain. I never knew what a child had to go through when they are passing. It's absolutely horrific, and I have so much anger about it," she said.

"It's never going to be OK that he's not here with us, but we want to try and help other families going through the same thing — and we want to make sure no one ever forgets about Ethan."

In addition to the tournament, Jostad hopes to create a foundation to provide toys and other support for children around the world battling cancer.

"I guess if any good could come out of a very bad situation, it's that our child has made a difference and has touched so many peoples' lives," Jostad said.

To read the family's journal chronicling Ethan's battle, see www.caringbridge.org/visit/ethanjostad/journal. For information on a memorial, tentatively planned for Saturday, Aug. 13, visit the Team Ethan Facebook page, www.mailtribune.com/teamethan.

Any business willing to act as a drop site for toys to help jump-start the Ethan Jostad Foundation can email the family at jostad@charter.net.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.