This was what downtown St. George, Ontario, looked like … on Oct. 24.
The small Canadian town rallied together to celebrate Christmas early for 7-year-old Evan Leversage, who has been fighting a terminal brain tumor for most of his life.
When word came from Evan’s doctors that he would most likely not survive until Dec. 25, Evan’s family planned to hold a small, family Christmas on Oct. 19.
The decision to throw a full-on, community-wide early Christmas party began when Evan’s cousin Shelly Wellwood went into town to ask business owners if they wouldn’t mind putting their holiday lights up a little early.
Brandy King, a local florist and business owner, posted Wellwood’s request to Facebook, where it went viral and resulted in hundreds of offers to help Evan’s family celebrate.
“They were overwhelmed by the support,” King said.
So on Oct. 24, the town held a huge Christmas parade for Evan.
The early Christmas came complete with snow, colored lights, dozens of floats, and, of course, Santa Claus.
According to King, over 7,000 people showed up to celebrate with Evan — in a town of only 3,000. More than 240 people, businesses, and other groups offered to make floats, which would have made it bigger than the Macy’s parade (it was ultimately pared down to 25, which is what the town’s streets could accommodate).
Evan even got to ride in Santa’s sleigh.
“It was a bit like walking in a dream,” King said. “It was such a short period of time from initially seeing the poster to having this beautiful parade with thousands of people showing up. It certainly restores your hope and faith in humanity to see that kind of outpouring of support.”
As Evan’s story spread, help and well-wishes continued to pour in — even from outside of St. George.
Evan’s cousins launched a GoFundMe campaign to help cover food and living expenses for Evan, his siblings, and parents. As of Oct. 27, 2015, it had surpassed $40,000 in donations.
Meanwhile, Evan’s family is incredibly grateful to their community for throwing an unforgettable Christmas for their son, brother, and cousin.
King, who helped organize the event, believes that in times of crisis, people come together and rise to the challenge — they just sometimes need to be asked.
“What I hope that people will realize is that everyone has their own village,” King said. “Even if you live in a big city, the borough that you live in is your village, and start treating people like your neighbors again.”