5-year-old Hamilton boy with cancer gets his wish as hundreds dress up for early Halloween

·3 min read
Alex was giving parade-goers high fives, including this ghostbuster, and waving at them during the Halloween parade held for him this week.  (Cara Nickerson/CBC - image credit)
Alex was giving parade-goers high fives, including this ghostbuster, and waving at them during the Halloween parade held for him this week. (Cara Nickerson/CBC - image credit)

Halloween came early in Hamilton's east end this week, as hundreds of people dressed up to help a five-year-old boy with terminal cancer fulfil his wish.

As the sun set Wednesday on Argyle Street in the city's Crown Point neighbourhood, costumed community members filled the street for Alexandros Hurdakis.

Throughout the evening, Alex's parents, Nick and Kira, carried their son through the crowded street, introducing him to witches, zombies, Ghostbusters characters, English bulldog Rubble from Paw Patrol, as well as real firefighters and community members who came to show their love.

The Hurdakis family learned last week the experimental treatments that helped Alex fight brain cancer for the past 4½ years have stopped working, and that the cancer is now terminal, said family friend Paula Tzouanakis Anderson in a Facebook post on Monday. The family confirmed the details to CBC.

Cara Nickerson/CBC
Cara Nickerson/CBC
Cara Nickerson/CBC
Cara Nickerson/CBC

Tzouanakis Anderson said the family, which also includes Alex's brother Kostas, 9, and sister Eirene, 2, wants to do everything possible to make his wishes come true while he is still with them.

On Sunday night, while Tzouanakis Anderson was visiting with the family, Alex said he wanted to see monsters, she recalled. He had wanted to visit one of the haunted houses in Niagara Falls, but his doctors recommended he stay closer to home, Tzouanakis Anderson said.

Cara Nickerson/CBC
Cara Nickerson/CBC
Cara Nickerson/CBC
Cara Nickerson/CBC

Tzouanakis Anderson was originally looking for a few inflatable Halloween decorations for Alex, to build a haunted house in the family's backyard. A friend told her to reach out to the Crown Point community Facebook page.

The response to her post was overwhelming, she said.

In a little over 48 hours, Tzouanakis Anderson was able to get Argyle Street to close down, and wrangle the help of Hamilton police and firefighters, volunteer face painters, popcorn and cotton candy vendors, and a dozen sports cars decked out in Halloween decorations.

Cara Nickerson/CBC
Cara Nickerson/CBC

"So many individuals came together to make this night great," Tzouanakis Anderson told CBC Hamilton on Thursday, the day after the neighbourhood came together.

She had been expecting a few people to turn up, but at the meeting place, the parking lot was full.

"I started crying," she said. "It was just amazing."

Hamilton resident Ariane Clark, who attended the parade, lost her five-year-old daughter Ellery to cancer three years ago. She said the event reminded her of the community support she received when her daughter died.

"It's humbling and heartbreaking to witness this community come together every single time to support families like ours," Clark said in an Instagram post about the parade on Thursday. "I had chills, I cried a lot, I smiled a lot. This place, I swear, there is nothing like it."

"Hamilton should be proud," Tzouanakis Anderson said.

"[Alex] was waving to every single person in the crowd. He knew it was for him…. You could see the love in his eyes."

Cara Nickerson/CBC
Cara Nickerson/CBC

"I knew it was going to be big, but I didn't know it would be this big," Tzouanakis Anderson said.

The community was able to gather donations for the Hurdakis family. Nick said the money collected from the community will help with the coming weeks.

"We have to take I don't know how many days off work," Nick, who works as a labour and safety rep for a construction firm, told CBC Hamilton.

He said he appreciated all the support from the neighbourhood and beyond.

"We never expected so many people to help out," Nick said.

"It was something else. There's no words."

At the end of the night, as the autumn breeze blew down the street, the crowds thinned and neighbours turned down the Monster Mash music, Alex was still in the street, playing with Rubble from Paw Patrol and making memories his family will cherish for a lifetime.