Neighbors, friends and other Oak Park residents, including Village President Anan Abu-Taleb and Trustee Bob Tucker, showed their support for Paul Nelson, an 8-year-old with leukemia, at a parade staged in his honor, Oct. 18, on the 600 block of South Lombard Avenue.
Christine Nelson describes her son as a social kid, the kind of person who enjoys engaging with his community.
So when Paul was diagnosed with leukemia on Sept. 2, started chemotherapy treatments and then suffered a stroke following a blood clot in his brain, he had to stop attending school and spend more time at home.
"For a kid who is the most social person I've ever met, this is the worst part of the whole thing," Christine said in an email, Oct. 16. "He feels crappy due to his leukemia and the treatment, but [it's hard] not being able to walk/manage stairs so he can attend school … karate class and Oak Park AYSO VIP soccer."
Paul, anticipating a ninth birthday on Oct. 27, also has Down syndrome. When his parents, Christine and Michael Nelson, learned of his diagnosis, they thought his condition would put him at higher risk of a certain kind of leukemia. Paul, however, has a "standard kid-type disease," Christine said.
Since Paul's diagnosis, the Nelsons have experienced the support of their community.
The Nelsons moved from Wicker Park to Oak Park seven years ago. The support from the family's current neighbors on South Lombard has been "mind-boggling," Christine said.
Neighbors, and in some cases parents of children Paul goes to school with, have made Target or Costco runs, made dinners and desserts, done the laundry, and taken Paul to rehab appointments in Chicago. A parent of a classmate took pictures of Paul before his hair falls out.
"We are so thankful and humbled to receive this outpouring of care and support," Christine said.
In a recent Facebook post to the Journal via email Monday morning, she expressed her feelings about the parade.
"For a woman of many, many words, I am almost speechless about what happened today on our block for our boy," Christine wrote. "'Almost' is key here. I hope someone got a shot of Paul when he saw the police car turn the corner onto the street and the marching band stepped off. 'It's a parade, Mom!' I said, 'It's your parade, Paul.' 'This is all for me?' 'Yes, Paul. This whole amazing thing was all for you.'"
The Oak Park and River Forest High School marching band, the OPRF mascot, OPRF's hockey team, Cub Scout Troop 66, Grace Lutheran Church members, Trinity Irish dancers and the Derby Lite team, in addition to friends and neighbors, participated in making it a special day for Paul.
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