The calendar may say November, but a neighbourhood in southwestern Ontario was already bursting with Christmas cheer on Sunday.
Despite the rainy day, family, friends and strangers rallied together in Cambridge to bring the magic of Christmas to a young boy who is battling cancer.
Dominic DaCosta, who is five years old, has been fighting neuroblastoma since the age of two, his cousin, Christina DaCosta-Alessandrini, told Global News. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, the childhood cancer starts in immature nerve cells called neuroblasts in the sympathetic nervous system.
“He’s been going through many different treatments,” Alessandrini says. “Chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy … he’s had tough patches, he’s had successes, he’s had ups and downs, and this is where we’re at.”
It’s why Alessandrini and her friend Janet Geibel Pereira came up with an idea to lift Dominic’s spirits: a plan to throw an early Christmas parade. They shared the plan on Facebook, expecting only a handful of supporters, but the word spread like wildfire.
“We posted it out there, thinking that it would be family, friends, some community members, you know — maybe 60, 70 cars,” Alessandrini said. “But then, it just exploded.”
In mere days, the number had ballooned, with well over 180 vehicles and characters from all over the community attending Dominic’s Christmas parade. In fact, the number could have been much higher — over 1,500 people — if event organizers hadn’t capped the number of cars in order to adhere to COVID-19 crowd restrictions, a post on the event’s Facebook page said.
A GoFundMe page set up to support Dominic and his family also continues to grow, already far surpassing its goal of $5,000.
On Dominic’s street, hundreds of cars paraded by on Sunday afternoon, decorated with tinsel and garland. Colourful floats and superhero characters marched by Dominic’s house to the tune of Christmas carols courtesy of a volunteer DJ.
There were elves busy delivering gift cards and presents from the community to the front porch of Dominic’s home, and other elves hanging donated ornaments to the tree out on Dominic’s front lawn.
All the while Dominic, who is immunocompromised, watched from a window up above, with his older brother, sister, mom and dad.
Sadly, Dominic and his family is just one of too many in the area fighting cancer. But for his family and others, the work and support of a local volunteer-run organization called Go Gold Cambridge has been vital in connecting them with other cancer warriors— making that fight a little easier and less isolating.
“The fact that this pandemic has kept us apart is really weighing down on these families,” said founder, Anita Langlois whose young son is also a cancer patient.
“We understood how difficult it is to ask for help, so we wanted to start an organization that asked for help on behalf of those families that are fighting because it’s a tough thing to do, and they shouldn’t even be worried about their financial hardships,” said Langlois. “They should be worrying about what is in front of them.”
Some members of the community who attended Dominic’s parade said they were moved with compassion when they heard about Dominic’s story, and couldn’t do enough to support the little boy and make him feel loved.
“We wanted to be apart of the memory and the excitement and the celebration of this time and give him the best memory possible,” said a neighbour, Tamara Gostlin.
Dominic’s mom, Denise DaCosta, says the experience of seeing her community and strangers respond in this way is a memory she will treasure forever.
“Every moment counts and it’s a very good reminder to just hug the people you love and just be so grateful,” DaCosta said tearfully. “I have no words. Like, it’s just incredible.”
Her words underscore that the true meaning of Christmas is the joy of spending time with the ones you love.