Jack Winter’s community came out Tuesday night to show their love for the 4-year-old who has been battling leukemia for the past three years.
Jack completed his final round of oral chemotherapy Monday, and his mother, Rebecca, wanted to do something special to celebrate the first day he didn’t have to take the medication.
Since she couldn’t throw a big party because of New Hampshire’s stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines, she called on her neighbors for help.
She asked on Facebook for a “special favor” from her “tiny town” to put a smile on her son’s face.
“We would love to give him a parade to celebrate this milestone,” she wrote. “He doesn’t quite understand what this means, but our family would appreciate marking the day with something that makes him happy.”
And the response from the community was overwhelming.
A parade of more than 100 cars drove by the Winter family home Tuesday, honking their horns holding out balloons and signs like “Jack you rock” and “You did it.”
There was even a fire engine, police cruiser and a vehicle with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Superman.
Rebecca said she got the idea for the parade from a friend, who put on a “crazy train” parade through her town to give the community a morale boost. Her friend drove by their house before the start of that parade with her decked-out car, and Jack loved it.
“I thought that would be something that would make him happy,” she said.
Rebecca and it was important for her to do something to mark the milestone for her son.
While she and her husband, BJ, understood the significance of the moment, they wanted to make sure he did.
“It’s been a long three years,” Rebecca said.
Jack was first diagnosed with leukemia at 18 months old in February 2017, when he spent 30 days in the intensive care unit.
When he was discharged from the hospital, Rebecca said, they would have to drive back for chemotherapy, every five days in the beginning until recently when it was every four weeks.
Since he has been in remission, Rebecca said, his maintenance treatment included IV treatment and chemotherapy at the hospital and taking a pill at home daily.
“So for him the end of treatment was anticlimactic: One day he took his medication and one day he didn’t,” Rebecca said. “That is why I think the parade was so important for him. There is no bell ringing, no hallway that you walk down where everyone is cheering for kids when they finish leukemia treatment, it just stops.”
When she made the call out for help with the parade on Facebook, she didn’t quite know what to expect. They had a few friends and town, not as many as she would like mainly because they have been self-isolating these past few years to protect Jack’s immune system.
But the post lit up with responses, all wanting to give Jack a day he would never forget.
“The whole thing kind of grew from there,” Rebecca said.
Rebecca said that before the parade started, Jack got excited when he saw a car drive by with a bunch of balloons hanging out the window. The car was on its way to the meetup spot for the rest of the parade.
“Oh my God! Did you see the car with balloons?” Jack said. “What’s going on?”
“I told him, ’Wait to see, buddy,” Rebecca said.
Then a line of cars started rolling past the house a few minutes later.
“There was so many it looked like traffic on a highway,” Rebecca said.
“I turned around and looked at him and his mouth was just open, and this is a kid who talks constantly. He’s a really chatty 4-year-old and he was just silent, mouth open the entire time. … I could tell that he was really in awe which is hard to do with a 4-year-old.”
In total, 113 vehicles took part in the parade, some traveling as far as 50 miles away just to participate.
“It was just an amazing, emotional experience,” she said.
Hey SLAYER! I’ve started a new series of posts called SLAY IT FORWARD. Each post is a submission from you of an act of kindness you have received or have witnessed that has inspired you. Let’s remind each other what’s important during this time and spread kindness… SLAY IT FORWARD.
To submit your own SLAY IT FORWARD story email me at firstname.lastname@example.org