EVERETT — Disneyland was on his bucket list.
The pandemic thwarted Avery Garcia-Valentin’s wish to go to the Magic Kingdom. So the Disney magic came to him.
What started as a small effort by a few neighborhood moms to bring joy to a boy with terminal cancer turned into a full-blown Disney parade in front of his house.
Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Cinderella, Snow White, Prince Charming, Elsa, Capt. America, Batman and other performance characters greeted Avery, who is on palliative care.
Neighbors wore costumes, waved signs and pedaled bikes with balloons through the streets of the Overlook at Riverfront, a master-planned housing development east of I-5. Eight shiny Corvettes rolled through the pageantry.
“As soon as we opened the door we were crying,” said Avery’s mom, Rebecca Rosa-Valentin. “We thought it would be a drive-by, like all the COVID graduations and birthdays.”
It was a party with pizza, ice cream, cupcakes and music. A fund-raising check for $6,800 was presented to Avery for “dreams and wishes.”
“Avery was so happy. He lasted an hour. After that he was in so much pain,” his mom said. “He has been happy since. It humbled us to know there are people in this world who would do something so special just to see a smile on a kid’s face.”
It has been a grueling and often sleepless 18 months for Rebecca, 33, and Christian Garcia, 32, and their 8-year-old daughter, Zoee. A bright spot was the birth of Elijah, born May 1. Avery chose the name for his baby brother.
In early 2019, after episodes of severe stomach pain, Avery was diagnosed at Seattle Children’s Hospital with pancreatoblastoma. The rare pancreatic cancer had spread to other organs.
The next year involved frequent stays at the Seattle hospital, with the parents taking extended leave from their retail careers.
“He had a 22-hour surgery,” Rosa-Valentin said. “We call the surgery team The Avengers.”
Despite 10 surgeries, rounds of chemotherapy and 26 cycles of radiation, tumors continued to grow and cause extreme pain. In February the parents were told there were no more curative options.
“We came home and we made a bucket list for him. He wanted to go to Disneyland,” his mom said. “We were so excited to get him there. We booked a trip, and then COVID-19 happened.”
Avery might have a few weeks to a few months to live.
The parents credit Avery’s medical team with doing what they could.
“We are grateful they have been able to prolong his life this long,” his dad said. ”Each day we spend is a blessing. He does the heavy lifting.”
“He is the kindest old soul in the world,” his mom said. “Avery is such a cuddler. He has wiped away my tears and told me to stay strong. He keeps us strong.”
Avery had an emergency surgery at the hospital two days before the July 18 parade. He requires extensive medical care for his pain and illness.
For an hour on the day of the parade, everything was right in the world.
The family, who moved into a new home at Overlook at Riverfront in 2017, had to social distance before the pandemic due to Avery’s weak immune system.
Neighbor Anne Heartsong spearheaded a fundraiser for a special event for the boy who wanted to go to Disneyland, but whose prognosis made it impossible.
Suhani Pillay, another neighbor, said people wanted to help, even those who didn’t know him.
Pillay turned to Facebook in early July. And one share led to another. Just like a fairy tale.
“Everybody just came together,” Pillay said.
Kendra Orton, an Overlook resident who’d never met Avery’s family, enlisted the help of her dad, a member of the Corvette Marque Club of Seattle.
“Somebody told me Avery likes fast cars,” she said.
The dress code was party attire.
“I didn’t expect actual Disney characters to come, so I told everyone to dress up,” said Orton, who got out her Little Mermaid costume.
The Facebook post caught the attention of Pillay’s friend Nicole Lalwani of Mountlake Terrace.
“I had this vision he deserves to have a legit Disney-type parade. It needed to be big and special and magical,” Lalwani said.
She rallied donations from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Pizza Hut in Everett, Chick-fil-A in Lynnwood and Trophy Cupcakes & Party in Seattle. Fastsigns made a banner for Avery and the Party Store gave balloons. DJ Fletch offered up deejay services. When a Costco corporate donation wasn’t possible, employees at the Everett warehouse used their own money to buy pizza.
Lalwani didn’t stop there.
“Basically, I contacted Cinderella,” she said.
The Cinderella works for Enchanting Events, a Mount Vernon company that provides character entertainment at birthday parties and live events.
“We jumped on that opportunity. A big part of what we do is to give back to the community,” owner Lianna Neyens said.
About half of the company’s actors were available that day to volunteer.
“Cinderella took the lead on this project,” Neyens said. “She choreographed the parade.”
It was a requirement to social distance and wear masks.
“We were very cautious about coronavirus,” Lalwani said. “In the midst of this whole pandemic we were still able to bring magic to Avery.”
“He was loving life,” Neyens said.
Avery’s parents shared his Disney moment.
“Not only did they mark it off Avery’s bucket list, they marked it off ours,” his mom said.
To read the family’s blog, visit their GoFundMe page at https://bit.ly/3g3J3AA