Ontario town holds Christmas parade for terminally-ill 7-year-old
Christina Commisso, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, October 24, 2015 1:26PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, October 24, 2015 11:44PM EDT
Christmas has come early for a terminally-ill seven-year-old from Ontario who may not make it to December 25.
With fake snow swirling in the air and a Christmas parade making its way past his home in St. George, Ont., it likely didn't feel like October for Evan Leversage.
The festivities are dedicated to the young boy, who has an inoperable brain tumour.
Evan had a wide smile as he rode off in a sleigh with Jolly Old Saint Nick, who was part of the 25-float procession.
Despite temperatures hovering in the low teens, volunteers helped ensure that it was a white Christmas. A movie crew blanketed the front lawn of the family's home with fake snow.
The Ontario Provincial Police said that about 7,000 people attended the event.
The town banded together to give Evan what might be his last Christmas, with neighbours stringing lights around their homes and shop-owners decorating their store-fronts in red and green.
"I would like to think that if something this severe was happening in my own family, that I'd have the help and support of my community," shop owner Brandy King said Friday.
Others got into the spirit of the holiday by getting Christmas presents for Evan.
Rescue workers presented Evan with a full firefighter's costume and helmet.
Neighbour Ken Harber said the community coming together to ensure Evan has one last Christmas shows the impact the youngster has had on the small town.
"It's a sad matter that this could be his last Christmas," Harber said. "But it certainly shows that there are an awful lot of good people out there and he's touched our hearts immensely."
Doctors diagnosed Evan with an inoperable brain tumour when he was two years old. An aggressive 18-month chemotherapy program stopped the tumour's growth for a few years. But in January, Evan began losing movement in his right arm and right leg.
An MRI showed that the tumour had become aggressive and he went through more radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Tests later showed that the tumour had started to grow, and doctors were unsure if Evan would survive to see another Christmas.
The condition has also left Evan blind in one eye and dealing with issues related to his speech.
Evan's mom, Nicole Wellwood, said she worked on a bucket list with Evan, who is the middle son of three boys.
One of the items on the list was celebrating Christmas, so family and friends in St. George – about 100 kilometres west of Toronto – set to decorating.
An event was created on Facebook, which eventually caught the attention of the community and people around the world.
"We thought it was our family Christmas and a few Christmas lights – we didn’t think it was going to go past our immediate family – so the fact that he's getting presents and Christmas cards from around the world we are so humbled," said Evan's cousin Ashley Agar.
Wellwood said she's received support and well-wishes from as far away as Belgium, the Netherlands and Jamaica.
Evan even received a package and card from Canadian popstar Justin Bieber.
"People reaching out to help me make memories with my son, I don't know how to even explain how that feels," Wellwood said.
Wellwood added that the support Evan has received at home is "truly beautiful."
"This town has been amazing (and) the world has been amazing. (It is) just incredible," she said.
Christmas is one of Evan's favourite times and Wellwood said she's happy that he's feeling well at the moment and he's able to enjoy the festivities.
Agar said the festive mood is making it easier for the family to cope during a very difficult time.
"The boys are so young, and it's a very dark time in the family," she said. "To have so many lights, literally, around, it's really making certain aspects of this a little easier to bear."
Wellwood, who is a single mother, told The Canadian Press that providing for her family during the winter holidays has frequently been a struggle. However, she reached out for help and hasn't let financial difficulties stop them from cherishing the time together.
"Being a single parent, when things are tight, there's been organizations ... that made sure Christmas has always been very special for this family."
CTV News Channel’s Merella Fernandez is in St. George, and said that seven-year-old Evan has been "quite overwhelmed" by all the attention he is receiving.
But when he peeked out of the window of his home to see snow on his front lawn, Merella said his eyes grew wide in amazement.
Wellwood says that she hopes Evan's plight can be turned into a positive and help bring "people closer" together.
"I hope people know to believe in miracles – to know that small community has proven how extraordinary people are," she said.