Gifted Staten Island boy, 6, dies after fierce battle with cancer

STATEN ISLAND, NY – Yenula Arya Hennaka, a 6-year-old PS 35 student who had tremendous zest for life, died Feb. 24 at a hospice in Ohio after a fierce two-year battle with the cancer.

Overflowing with love and affection for his family and classmates, the gifted student looked forward to his days at PS 35, the Clove Valley School in Sunnyside where he had a special fondness for science projects – and would accomplish experiments on nature with joy.

Yenula Hennaka, six years old. (Courtesy of the Hennaka family)


Son of Chathurika and Pradeep Indika Hennaka, Yenula was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in July 2020.

For the past year, he was undergoing treatment at the Children’s Cancer Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio for Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of cancer that arises in the bones or in the soft tissues around the bones and spreads usually found in children and young adults.

The Hennakas, who reside in St. George, are Sri Lankan immigrants.

The youngster’s father, Pradeep, a transport driver, immigrated to America some 20 years ago. And his mother, Chathurika, a preschool teaching assistant, arrived in this country just over eight years ago. Yenula was born at Staten Island University Hospital.

“On February 24, 2023, Yenula returned to her place,” said her mother, Chathurika. “From birth, it was obvious that Yenula was no ordinary child,” she added. “From the hand in his very first photo, taken just after he was born, to the way he finally said goodbye to us, he was extraordinary.”

Yenula Arya Hennaka and Santa Claus. (Courtesy of the Hennaka family)

She explained that her thoughtfulness, kindness and creativity were extremely rare and rarely seen in a child her age.

“And in the very short time he was here on earth with us, he made stories and movies out of those stories, and wrote his own songs and poems. That’s while battling this beast of cancer for two years during its 6-year lifespan. He was so loved and wherever he went, even those who had never met him were so loving towards him.

Yenula Arya Hennaka has succumbed to Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. (Courtesy of the Hennaka family)

Throughout Yenula’s treatments, doctors and nurses were impressed with her resilience and thoughtfulness.

Yenula courageously underwent treatment for more than two years. According to his aunt, Sriyani Pathirena, he fell ill in July 2020 at a time when his parents were unable to get an appointment with their pediatrician and was diagnosed after an emergency room visit.

He underwent surgery, one of his ribs was removed, as well as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a clinical drug trial.

Yenula and her parents stayed at the Cleveland Ronald McDonald House, where they were given free accommodation.

“We couldn’t hide anything about his condition,” Chathurika said. “He always managed (and fought to) keep an ear for conversations and wrote down every word of it. He knew everything about his body and sometimes he could tell even before the doctors knew about it,” she says.

Yenula Arya Hennaka while receiving treatment. (Courtesy of the Hennaka family)


Yenula is survived by her parents, Chathurika and Pradeep Indika Hennaka, her aunt, Sriyani Pathirena, and loving relatives and friends and PS 35 teachers, who have become like family during Yenula’s difficult journey.

Funeral arrangements are taken care of by Matthew Funeral Home, Willowbrook on Fridays from 4-9pm.

Those with questions should contact Stephanie DeMartino of the I Kick Cancer Charity, who handled funeral arrangements for the family, at


Yenula’s family delivered a heartbreaking message: “Yenula, we will miss you so much and I hope we will see you again on the other side one day. With love, Mom, Dad, Anta, Sisi and Chandu.

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