MIDLOTHIAN, Va. — Well before the Keller family pulled into the Walton Park Community Center parking lot, that was aglow with holiday lights and inflatables, four-year-old Everett began getting excited for their short lap around it.
“I mean he’s been excited for Christmas since Halloween,” Everett’s father, Seth, said.
The winter wonderland laid out for the Kellers and other families gave them a short break from what has been an incredibly taxing two years.
“It’s great to have something to kind of smile and relax and have fun, and kind of forget about some of the more serious things that he’s going through. That we’re all going through,” said Danielle Keller, Everett’s mother.
In September 2019, Everett was diagnosed with A.L.L. Leukemia, a form of blood and bone marrow cancer. His family joined the ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation, who support families with children who are diagnosed with cancer.
“It’s been kind of a long journey of surgical procedures, chemotherapy, bunch of different drugs, steroids,” Seth said.
“It’s been intensified because we don’t have family that’s in the area. Obviously, when he was diagnosed it was a completely different world. There wasn’t what we’re going through now. Once that happened, it made it even more isolated. We just don’t have many things we can do, and things we can do we’ve done so many times it’s pretty monotonous,” Danielle said.
It was clear Sunday evening that monotony was broken for the family, and particularly Everett. The parking lot was filled with decorations and dancing ASK volunteers, decked out in their wildest holiday wares.
The “tacky light tour” replaced the organization’s typical holiday party that takes place indoors. Since all the children involved have compromised immune systems, families like the Kellers were able to drive through, check out the light show, get a bag filled with presents for the whole family, and even take a picture with Santa.
“Everett, what do you want for Christmas?” Santa asked.
“A lot of toys,” Everett said as he shyly tucked his head into Danielle’s shoulder and she chuckled and smiled.
Through their trip around the parking lot, it was easy to spot Everett in his car seat, peering out the window with a smile and playing with his new toys.
“It’s great to have that kind of support from an organization that really understands it, not only from the patient perspective but the parent’s perspective as well,” Seth said.
To make the event as festive as possible, and as a part of our “Month of Giving,” CBS 6 partnered with the North Chesterfield Home Depot to donate several of the large inflatables that helped light up the party.
For the Kellers, this Christmas will look much different than the last two: Everett’s end of treatment date is set for Dec. 20.
“It’s nice to not have to be so regimented on certain things and maybe let him relax a little bit. Hopefully he starts to feel a little better. He’s young and can’t vocalize how he feels, but we can tell with some behaviors. So hopefully, it will be just a relaxed, enjoyable holiday!” Danielle said.
The Kellers are just one of more than 130 families who signed up to take part in the tacky light tour and holiday party.
Knowing what they know now, the Kellers shared this message to other families that reaches well beyond the holidays.
“Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, it’s a long road. But, if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you can get to the end. If you keep focusing on the positive things every day and the little things that can still bring joy to you, that’s really the key to it,” Seth said.
You can learn more about the ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation here.