Canoe Cove boy who lost his sight to be supported by Christmas fundraiser

·2 min read

CANOE COVE – For three-year-old Jake Kislingbury, it sure is good to be home from the hospital.

"He was just petrified for such a long time," his mother Verity said.

The Canoe Cove boy started having bad headaches in May. He was soon airlifted to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax due to a rare, aggressive form of cancer called Burkitt lymphoma, which had spread so rapidly from his sinuses it's left him permanently blind.

Jake, the son of Verity and Dave Kislingbury, had to stay at the hospital from May to October, and he and his family still have a long road ahead. So, in support of the Kislingburys, the community is using its annual Christmas event to raise funds for their neighbours this December.

"That's what the community is here for," neighbour Chrys Jenkins said.

This marks Chrys and Doreen Jenkins' 10th year hosting the Drive-Thru Living Nativity at their farmhouse in Canoe Cove. Organizers welcome everyone to witness the Jenkins' Christmas light display and nativity scene – complete with farm animals and in-character volunteers – from the comfort of their vehicles Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. each night.

Plans for the drive-thru nativity started in September and there will be a few differences from past years, such as the addition of Santa and his sleigh.

"Instead of the (usual) choir," Doreen said, "because of COVID."

Jake and Verity got to check out the sleigh in advance of the event. Jake would often hold his mother's hand while walking around, and he had a fun time meeting the Jenkins' animals, playing with his toys and chatting it up as any three-year-old would.

"He's gained his character back," Verity said. "We lost that for a while."

During his time in the hospital, there were many nights where she would have to sleep in his bed to help comfort him. He clutched to his parents' promise that they would get him and his brother, William, a dog after treatment, which they'd train as a service dog, Verity said.

"That's what got him through," she said. "It was tough."

"But we got through," Jake said, unprompted, in response to his mother.

The Kislingburys had volunteered with the drive-thru nativity for several years before and are grateful for the Jenkins' generosity in hosting it. All freewill donations will go toward general expenses incurred from Jake's treatment, and possibly toward a trust fund for his future.

"It's a whole life change for all of us, really," Verity said.

Daniel Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian