Community raises spirits of teen cancer survivor with 12-minute parade
TORONTO -- A community in East Toronto came together on Saturday morning to raise the spirits of a teenager who’s been battling cancer for most of his life.
Jake McKee, 13, sat in his wheelchair on the front lawn of his Scarborough home, next to his parents and sister, and waved as vehicle after vehicle drove by.
The “Drive for Jake” parade lasted 12 minutes, and featured a fire truck, police cruisers and dozens of other vehicles packed with people cheering and waving, and with signs offering words of encouragement.
Smiling from ear to ear, Jake McKee said the experience made him feel “special and excited.” That’s a big change from two weeks ago when doctors realized the rare cancerous tumours on his neck and spine had doubled in size, meaning he needed surgery urgently.
“We were lucky enough that the surgeon decided that he would try surgery one more time,” his mother Patricia McKee said. “And I can’t believe that he was able to remove 98 per cent of the tumour this time. So what turned out to be such a horrible thing for Jake and the family, was a blessing.”
The parade is also a nod to the annual “Meagan’s Walk” fundraiser for children with brain tumours. It had to be cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The McKee’s always took part, wearing their green “Team Jake” T-shirts.
Patricia McKee says her son recuperating well and his entire family was clearly moved by the support they received from so many.
“This was just an amazing show of love and support for all of us. For Jake and our whole family. Because we certainly miss that right now, but we do feel the love, that’s for sure.”
Rod McKee, Jake’s father, was also touched by the effort.
“We’re just very happy that people think of him, and all the support we’ve had during this ordeal.”
The parade was organized by teachers at the 13-year-old’s elementary school, Blantyre Public School. Participants gathered in the parking lot before the parade began, to set up, while also staying physically distant.
One of Jake McKee’s former teachers Candace Hummel says they all just wanted to show their love and support.
“This was just an amazing opportunity for us to get together. But we’re still staying apart, in our cars to support Jake. It’s a difficult time but this is one of the silver linings.”
When the last car passed, and the parade wrapped up, the soft spoken teen who’s coming back from major surgery had two words to show his gratitude.
With a big smile on his face he said, “thank you.”