Town Rallies to Make Christmas Come Early for One Special Boy Battling Cancer
His legacy continues to unite a community
Christmas is a time for giving to others. And in the small town of St. George, Ontario, thousands of people got together to collectively give a precious memory to one little boy and his family.
When Evan Leversage was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of two, doctors did everything they could to save him. Evan underwent several rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, which seemed promising; but then he started losing mobility in his arm and leg. Further tests revealed that the tumor was still there and had continued to spread. More months of chemotherapy ensued; but Evan never complained. When Evan was seven years old, a test showed that the tumor had spread to other areas of his brain. Doctors said it was inoperable. They reluctantly gave Evan’s family the devastating news: the boy probably wouldn’t make it until Christmas.
Ashley Agar, Evan’s aunt, still remembers the heartbreaking conversation they had to have with Evan to tell him that no more treatment options were available. Evan asked, ‘Why?’. There was another kid with cancer in the hospital; she was getting treatment. ‘Why her and not me?’ Evan wondered innocently.
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His mother, Nicole Wellwood, couldn’t believe that she wouldn’t get to spend another Christmas with her boy. “It’s the lights. It’s the music. It’s just the whole feeling that Christmas gives. It brings out the kid in you.” And she longed to spend another magical moment with her son.
A Town Comes Together
The residents of St. George rallied around the grieving family, as only a small town knows how to do, and went as far as to make Christmas come early that year. In October, to be exact. They decorated their houses and the main street with lights. People singing Christmas carols went door to door. And more than 25 floats were built for an early Christmas parade.
“It’s pretty crazy,” gushed Wellwood. “A lot of people have really went above and beyond.”
It’s no surprise, then, that a sign welcoming people to the small town in Ontario identifies St. George as “The Friendly Village”. And even though only 3,000 people live there, over 7,000 people showed up to the Christmas parade thrown in Evan’s honor. The event was live streamed, so even people who weren’t there in person that night reached out to Evan’s family afterwards to say they were there in spirit. Evan got to ride in a sleigh with Santa.
“It was magical,” said his mom. “The support and love that was shown, the people that made it possible…I’m speechless.”
The support was indeed immensely helpful to Evan’s family, including his two brothers. “Many times I’ve told people that Evan is my inspiration,” Wellwood said. “Well, the whole wide world just became my inspiration, too.”
Awed, and with a big smile on his face, young Evan asked his mother why everyone had done this. “Because you have a whole town that loves you,” she replied.
Less than two weeks after the event that caught media attention worldwide, Evan was admitted to palliative care. While there, he did get to participate in one last Christmas activity. In November, volunteer firefighters came to the hospice to put up a 12-foot Christmas tree. Evan took great pleasure in directing them where to put the lights and ornaments. A couple weeks later, Evan passed away on December 6.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Nicole Wellwood said, “I was holding him as he took one last deep breath, and I knew at that very moment that this would be his last. I couldn’t believe my eyes but he died with the most beautiful smile on his face.”
Evan’s Memory Lives On
The boy who courageously battled cancer and inspired a whole town to come together is far from forgotten. The residents of St. George put their Christmas lights up early again, a year later, in memory of the young boy. In an event they called Lights for Evan, they left their Christmas lights on all night.
When Evan was diagnosed with childhood cancer years ago, his family knew they wanted to raise awareness in his honor, and the parade allowed them to do that. On social people, other parents of children with cancer, known as gold ribbon families, reached out to Wellwood. The parade was for Evan—but it was also for the thousands of other children battling cancer.
Evan’s family has since gone on to organize several fundraisers to raise money to study childhood cancers. When Evan was in palliative care, he spent his final days mostly sleeping. But his mother says that when she talked to him about raising money for cancer, the boy woke up, smiled and nodded. She told him she’d work hard to make sure other children didn’t have to feel bad like he did. And so his family launched Evan’s Legacy with the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.
Evan’s true legacy is about more than battling childhood cancer. It’s about bringing people together to do good in the world. It’s about the power of community.