How a town brought happiness to a dying boy

ethan van leuven

A family lost their little boy this week, but not before their whole town united to make sure his last days were full of joy.

When it became clear that four-year-old Ethan Van Leuven wouldn’t survive to see Christmas, his community rallied to make it come early.

At 22 months old, Ethan was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After months of treatment, hope and heartbreak, two weeks ago doctors told his parents to prepare for the worst – their son had just a few days to several weeks to live.

So the town of West Jordan, Utah, decided to fill his last week with a birthday party, Halloween and Christmas.


Neighbours, friends and strangers rallied, first by organising an early Halloween. Ethan wore a Superman costume to go trick-or-treating with other dressed-up neighbours last Tuesday.

Two days later, the town celebrated his fifth birthday a month early with a street parade. Almost 100 people marched past his house, including a bag piper and others dressed as Darth Vader and Indiana Jones.

The next evening, the neighbourhood turned out again for Christmas Eve. Locals put up Christmas trees and lights, wreaths and decorated their yards. More than 150 people gathered in his family’s yard to sing carols. Best of all, Ethan met Santa and Mrs Claus and was taken in a firetruck to see all the Christmas lights and a nativity play.


On Saturday, Ethan celebrated his favourite day, Christmas, by opening presents with his family. “He’s looked forward to Christmas since last Christmas,” Ethan’s mother, Jennifer Van Leuven, tells Fox 13 Salt Lake City.

Just three days later, the family has farewelled their brave little boy. In a message on the Fundraiser for Ethan Facebook page, Ms Van Leuven says: “We are so grateful for the blessing he has been to us in his short life, and the impact he was able to make on many people. We are so grateful for the support we have received, and the blessing all of you have been to our family.”


The family says they have been buoyed by the actions of their local community. “It helps to see that there are still good people in the world,” Ms Van Leuven tells Utah’s KSL TV.

(Images via Facebook)


Michelle Rose

Michelle Rose

Michelle is a journalist and mum to two girls who are obsessed with dinosaurs, fairies, pirates and princesses in equal measure. She lives in Melbourne's east with her husband, daughters and a giant, untameable labradoodle. Michelle loves all things vegetarian, wine (it's a fruit) and online shopping.

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