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It was an emotional welcome home Sunday afternoon for a P.E.I. boy and his family.
Over 120 vehicles – cars, trucks, tractor-trailers, farm tractors, lawn tractors, bicycles, motorcycles, fire trucks and flat-bed trucks – participated in a drive-by welcome home parade for four-year-old Camden Kingyens and his family on the Gunning Shore Road in Travellers Rest, near Summerside.
“It seemed a long way away back in December,” said Rod Kingyens, referring to when Camden, his grandson, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, the most common type of brain cancer in children.
“We are so happy to be able to see that family put back together. We are just praying and hoping that the treatments worked for Camden, but we are sure happy he’s healthy right now, he’s enjoying himself and having so much fun. The community support has been amazing and overwhelming for us. The support of this community and Island sure gave a lot of comfort to this family over the last nine months, that’s for sure.”
The family – parents Matt and Victoria (nee Gallant), seven-year-old Nate and the family dog, Bandit – watched the parade from their front yard. Family members cheered on from a neighbouring property as vehicles and tractor-trailers blew their horns while the sirens of fire trucks blared as the family waved and exchanged greetings with the well-wishers. Parade participants also stopped and left items for the family at the end of the driveway.
“I expected a few cars, but this was a huge line,” said Rod Kingyens. “I see support from friends, family, citizens of the Island, co-workers who have taken their time to bring large units up, and they know the kids love heavy equipment. It’s just amazing to see how people are going out of their way to make that little guy smile and wish him well.”
The family was blown away with the support, said Victoria, who thanked everyone who took part.
The family, she said, was once again reminded of what “an amazing community” they live in.
“We felt so loved and couldn’t believe the turnout.”
Camden’s grandfather, Peter Gallant, said the parade was an opportunity for the community to see the child they have been supporting.
“It’s unfortunate during COVID it’s a drive-by, but it is what it is,” said Gallant, who assisted in directing vehicles at the end of the parade. “We are beyond words, that’s all I can tell you.”
After undergoing surgery and treatments at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Camden received three rounds of advanced chemo and two high-dose rounds in Toronto from January to June. The family then spent nine weeks in Boston, where Camden completed 30 proton therapy treatments. Camden will undergo an MRI around the third week of October to determine if the proton therapy treatments were a success.
“It’s been nine months of uncertainty, waiting, an emotional ride up and an emotional ride down,” said Gallant. “We have collectively witnessed Cam beat the odds at every corner, at every turn, where doctors, oncologists, radiologists and technicians of all kinds were preparing the family that it could be this way or it could be that way. But he always came out and stayed true to his nickname, ‘the warrior.’
“He’s a fierce little guy, tough as nails, and there is no stopping him. To look at him now, you would never know he had gone through nine months of this.”
Smith and Margorie Gunning, who live on a farm just up the road from the Kingyens, participated in the parade in their Massey Ferguson tractor. The Gunnings were honoured to have been selected to lead the parade, which Smith joked created the most traffic ever on the Gunning Shore Road.
“The children, Camden and Nate, were always teasing us about this Massey,” said Smith with a smile. “They are John Deere men and every time they see me go by, ‘There goes Smith with his old Massey.’
“They like teasing me.”
Marjorie said it was a special day to be part of.
“We are so glad to have Camden home.”