'I cried, I couldn't believe it': Smiths Falls community organize drive-by birthday parade for toddler with cancer

·2 min read

Over 70 neighbours, friends, family and police officers greeted Baby Grayson Eaton with a drive-by parade in honour of his first birthday on March 23 in Smiths Falls.

“Baby Grayson,” as he is fondly called, has been undergoing chemotherapy at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in Ottawa for a rare form of cancer called rhabdoid tumour, for most of his first year of life.

His grandmother, Debbie Botham, from Port Elmsley, said, “I cried, I couldn’t believe it. It was amazing the way they came together and made this happen. The whole street was there for Grayson.”

With a “permanent smile on his face,” Grayson loved every minute of the parade, Botham said. “I think it’s because there’s all these people around and they’re not hurting him (with injections). He is old enough (to know that) when he goes to CHEO, they’re going to prick him with something,” she added.

Botham said neighbours decorated their garages, brought lots of balloons and gifts, made posters and sang to Grayson.

Grayson shares his March 18 birthday with his grandfather, but the parade had to be rescheduled as he had to go to the hospital for treatment.

At one year of age, Grayson weighs only about 17 pounds, and has struggled with the treatments, according to Botham. “He’s getting sick (nauseous) a lot. He still has four months of treatments to go,” she added. “We’ve been blessed to have such a happy boy even though he’s going through what he’s gone through.”

Sarah Armstrong, a family friend, organized the mini-parade and contacted the police and fire departments. The fire department responded to a call just a few minutes before the parade and had to cancel being a part of the birthday celebrations.

“This girl is an angel. (Sarah and her family) sent out flyers to people on the street. It was so well-planned,” Botham said.

“We were just so grateful with how the community came together and made this a special day for Grayson and this is something that we will always remember,” added Botham.

To help Grayson with his treatments, an e-transfer may be sent to Meagan Eaton at mbotham@cnih.ca or call Botham at 613-285-5316.

A GoFundMe page has been created to help with fundraising. Their original goal of $10,000 has been surpassed, but needs are ongoing, and donations can still be made.

Yona Harvey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Smiths Falls Record News