PARENTS

Town Makes Halloween And Christmas Come Early For Boy Dying Of Cancer

30/10/2014 12:46 | Updated 20 May 2015

ethan van leuven

When the friends and neighbours of Ethan Van Leuven heard the devastating news that the four-year-old was losing his battle to cancer, they decided to brighten up his final days by bringing forward the special occasions they knew he was likely to miss.

Ethan was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia aged just 22 months, and spent most of his short life battling the disease. Yet friends and family remember him as a happy boy, who loved making new friends, playing video games and doing puzzles.

When his parents, Merrill and Jen, shared the heartbreaking diagnosis that their little boy was unlikely to live much longer, neighbours in their hometown of West Jordan, Utah, rallied round to make his last week on Earth a special one.

First, local people organised a Halloween celebration 10 days early, on Tuesday 21 October. Ethan went trick-or-treating in the neighbourhood, where residents decked their houses out in spooky style to welcome him.

Ethan's birthday was next - his real birthday was a month away, and he was unlikely to see it. So friends and family arranged a big party in his honour on the Thursday, complete with a parade.

On Friday, a local radio station played three hours of festive music to set the mood for 'Christmas Eve'. Then, on Saturday, locals came together to celebrate an early Christmas Day - Ethan's favourite holiday - gathering to sing carols outside his home.

He died just four days after the Christmas celebrations, on Tuesday morning (29 October). His father, Merrill, shared the sad news on the family's blog, where they have long documented their son's battle with cancer.

"To all our dear friends, our little Ethan passed away this morning at 10:20 a.m," he wrote. "We are so grateful that each of you has helped in some way along this journey. Ethan is at peace now and will no longer battle with disease."

Mum Jen added: "We are so grateful for the blessing he has been to us in his short life, and the impact he was able to make on many people. We are so grateful for the support we have received, and the blessing all of you have been to our family."