Child with cancer leads school Mardi Gras parade

Beads for sale at Toomey's
Beads for sale at Toomey's

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — A 5-year-old boy with cancer was able to lead a Mardi Gras procession in his hometown on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Ryan Wilson rode on the back of a Corvette while serving as parade marshal Friday at North Bay Elementary School in Biloxi. The Sun Herald reported that (http://bit.ly/ONmBPx) that the youngster smiled as he tossed beads and trinkets to students. His brother, Matthew, is a third-grader at the school.

Ryan was supposed to start kindergarten at North Bay last fall, but he was diagnosed with cancer in July and started chemotherapy in August. His parents say he has a type of kidney cancer called Wilm’s tumor that has spread to his lungs. He has to limit exposure to germs by wearing a paper mask indoors and avoiding contact with other people.

“It’s a life-changing experience,” said his father, Chris Wilson. “You take for granted everyday stuff like being able to go to the grocery store.”

Wilson said Ryan has two more treatments before a re-evaluation in April. The last CAT scan showed the lung tumors were clearing.

Children at the school sold links for a paper chain for 25 cents each, and raised $3,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

Trisha Gainey, a first-grade teacher, said the school has been raising money for the charity for several years but the connection to Ryan made a difference this year.

“I had several kids that brought their piggy bank money,” she said. Parents matched their children’s donations and gave more money of their own.

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