A mum has told how her entire town celebrated Christmas two months early so her terminally ill little boy could enjoy his final one.
Keith Burkett had a rare form of cancer in his skull, shoulder, spine and liver, and was unlikely to live to celebrate his favourite holiday in 2018.
His mother Taylore Woodard knew she wanted to have one last Christmas with her son, but did not know the whole town would follow suit by organising a parade in his honour!
On October 21st, the people of Stow, Ohio, US, put up signs, decorated their gardens and threw a Christmas parade that no one would ever forget!
Hair stylist Taylore said: “Keith felt so loved and happy. The thing he was scared of the most about passing away was being alone or being forgotten, and it really showed him that he had an army behind him.”
Brandy Spreizer, who ran a local lemonade stand, arranged for more than 50 drivers to decorate their cars in honour of poorly Keith on what’s now known as ‘Kourageous Keith Day’, that is celebrated by the town annually.
Hundreds of people then gathered at Stow-Munroe Falls High School as Christmas music played and the crowds waited for Keith to arrive.
He was greeted at his home by friends dressed as Santa and elves from the North Pole.
Keith rode in a fire truck to the high school where he saw all the vehicles decorated in his honour.
Taylore added: “Everybody went full out and decorated their cars, and there were hundreds even though we’d only organised about 50!
“The fact that it was all organised in just two weeks was very humbling.”
On Christmas Eve in 2010, Keith was taken to the emergency room as it was clear he was very unwell.
The terrified mum said: “He had been sick for a couple of weeks but we thought it was just pneumonia, but it was Christmas Eve and he wasn’t running around, it just wasn’t like Keith.
“They did some chest X-rays and found fluid around his lung so he went into surgery that night, and after 17 days the fluid had started going down so he was discharged.”
It wasn’t until the results from a biopsy came back in March 2011 after a lump had appeared on his chest that Keith was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma- a rare form of cancer- when he was only six-years-old.
After years of aggressive medication and relapses, doctors warned that the little boy wouldn’t make it to Christmas, in May 2018.
Devastated Taylore said: “Christmas was Keith’s favourite holiday and you would think that a child would not like the holiday after all that it was associated with, so we decided that we needed to make it happen and he deserved to be with us.”
At the end of September, the family decorated their house into a Winter Wonderland and celebrated their own Christmas morning together.
Taylore said: “We woke up that morning, played some Christmas music, had hot chocolate and marshmallows and ate cookies, opened presents and just played.
“I think in the back of all our minds we knew why we were doing it but we didn’t talk about it that day; it was Christmas for us because it was Christmas with our boy.”
Keith died the following November, surrounded by his family.
Taylore said: “Some days are harder than others, but his favourite restaurant was Applebee’s so we are going to go there every year now and do a balloon release and decorate his graveside.
“We don’t talk about the sad times, he wouldn’t want us to be sad, and I do my best to keep his memory alive.
“I know that I will be with him again someday.”
Taylore spoke to the team at the Real Fix podcast – which features real life people telling their own extraordinary stories in their own words.
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