A small southern Ontario town is busy getting ready to give a terminally ill seven-year-old boy an early Christmas parade in case he doesn't live until the holiday season.
The parade in St. George, Ont., is part of Evan Leversage's bucket list.
Doctors diagnosed the boy with an inoperable brain tumour when he was two years old, said his mother, Nicole Wellwood. An aggressive 18-month chemotherapy program at the time stopped the tumour's growth and Evan lived a "normal" life for a few years.
But back in January, Evan began losing movement in his right arm and right leg. So his doctors scheduled an emergency MRI. The results showed the tumour had become aggressive.
"From the minute he was diagnosed, this has been a fear I've lived with every waking moment, every single day of what this tumour was capable of doing," Wellwood said.
It was on to radiation and more chemotherapy, five days a week for two months.
Yet Evan's spirits remained high.
"He had nurses and everyone laughing," Wellwood said.
Doctors said the treatment worked.
Then last month, two weeks into his Grade 2 classes, his right leg and right arm lost some movement again. Tests showed the tumour had begun to branch out.
"They said that they don't believe that in six months he would be here," Wellwood recalled.
She asked questions she never wanted to ask.
The big question: Would Evan be alive for Christmas? The doctors didn't know.
"They said, 'If it's important to you, bring it to October,'" she said.
Wellwood sat down with Evan, the middle son of three boys, and drew up a bucket list, an unimaginable task for a seven-year-old boy and his mother.
Some of the items on it: Niagara Falls, a movie, and his favourite restaurant.
They visited the falls last week, and Evan recently watched Hotel Transylvania 2 with his best friend. And soon they will go to eat at Wacky Wings in Brantford, Ont.
And, of course, Christmas.
After Evan made his bucket list in mid-September, Wellwood asked her family and friends to have Christmas in October.
Everyone said yes. One of her closest friends works with Perth County EMS and organized a big turkey dinner.
Her cousin, Shelly Wellwood, went around town asking businesses and residents to put their lights up early to give Evan one last Christmas. One business owner shared the idea on social media.
Word spread quickly, but didn't stop at the town's edge — Evan's story has gone around the world.
"We're getting videos from all over," Wellwood said. "People are putting up their lights all over the world from nearby Brantford to Stratford to all over the United States."
The town is lit up.
They had Christmas dinner at the local country club on Monday night. Over 70 friends and family members came. Even Santa Claus showed up.
Evan ate his favourite meal: KFC's popcorn chicken with French fries.
"It was a big meal that got him through treatment and something he always craved," his mother said.
Then he and other kids whacked a Batman pinata, filled with his favourite treats: suckers and KitKats. They decorated gingerbread cookies and posed with props in a photo booth.
And the town has been preparing all week for a big parade this Saturday night. There will be 25 floats — they had to cap the number, otherwise they'd have more than 100 — that will wend their way through the town's main street and swing by Evan's home.
Santa will again be there. The family is hoping Evan will have the strength to join Kris Kringle on the float before it finishes up at the nearby firehall.
"Right now he's giving me strength at night time," Wellwood said.
"It's very common for Evan to wake me up and say 'Mommy, I'm not going to leave you.' He is my miracle and blessing — even if the outcome of this does happen — that will never change. He has been the biggest inspiration of my life. He is my hero and I have a profound respect for what he's been through."
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press