Fire trucks, police cruisers, Jeeps and officers on horses help Columbus boy ring out remission celebration
Five-year-old Aiden Fulton's smile as he rang a bell and tossed glitter belied the fact that he has spent more than half of his life in pain and undergoing chemotherapy treatments for leukemia.
Aiden, with his parents Craig and Kat, celebrated his remission and the end of his chemotherapy March 6 with hundreds of others during a parade in front of his house in Hilliard Woods, a Columbus neighborhood off Wilson Road.
The parade was led by two Columbus Division of Fire ladder trucks and included cruisers from the Columbus, Hilliard and Upper Arlington police divisions and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and about 70 Jeeps of all colors, sizes and muddiness, representing the Mid Ohio Jeepers Organization.
It concluded with four officers on horses from the Columbus Division of Police's mounted unit.
All the while, Aiden, with his parents and Dana Norrod, volunteer outreach coordinator for NC4K, a Columbus nonprofit organization that provides support for children battling cancer and helped plan the parade, at his side, rang his bell and accepted greetings and gifts under a chilly but bright blue sky.
NC4K, which stands for Nellie’s Champions for Kids, was founded in 2007 by Nellie Corriveau, a Reynoldsburg High School graduate whose grandmother died of cancer.
Corriveau had launched a fashion show in honor of her grandmother and to raise proceeds for cancer research.
At the fashion show, she met a child who had cancer, and the experience soon led to the founding of NC4K, said Mandy Powell, executive director of NC4K.
“I liked the Jeeps (and) the trucks,” said Aiden, whose father is restoring his own father's Jeep for Aiden to one day drive.
Bell-ringing celebration are held to signify the conclusion of successful chemotherapy treatments, and in a world without the COVID-19 coronavirus, Aiden's would have occurred at Nationwide Children’s Hospital with family and friends.
But it was not possible with COVID-19 restrictions, Powell said.
So Norrod reached out to Don Zender, director of the First Responder Face-Off Foundation.
“Since (Aiden) couldn’t have his celebration at the hospital, we made it happen in his front yard,” Zender said.
The First Responder Face-Off Foundation was established six years ago in conjunction with what is an annual charity hockey tournament played between the Columbus fire and police divisions.
Proceeds from the competition have benefited a variety of charities, but after the murders of Westerville Division of Police officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering in February 2018, the organization refocused its effort on using the tournament and other new events to support the families of officers killed in the line of duty and firefighters diagnosed with cancer because of exposure to certain toxins, Zender said.
Norrod and Zender crossed paths two years ago when Zender assisted with providing Norrod’s son, Corbin, then 6, with a battery-powered ride-on toy police car. He, like Aiden, is in remission, Powell said.
Aiden’s parents first noticed symptoms of his leukemia, including a limp, more than three years ago, Craig Fulton said.
X-rays soon found inflammation in Aiden’s joints, and blood tests indicated he might have leukemia.
“We got a call from Nationwide Children’s Hospital saying, ‘We believe your child has leukemia; we want you to come into the emergency department immediately,' ” Kat Fulton said. “It was like a gut punch. You’re thinking ‘Cancer? What? No.' "
“Kids aren’t supposed to get cancer,” Craig Fulton said.
Aiden began chemotherapy that day, and “it has been a whirlwind the past three years and three months,” Kat Fulton said.
During treatment, Aiden has had more than 20 spinal taps, numerous blood transfusions and "countless” chemotherapy sessions, his parents said.
“(Aiden) has overcome a lot, and it’s been a long, long, hard road,” Kat Fulton said.
The celebration outside their residence was meaningful for Aiden because both his parents could watch him ring the bell, Kat Fulton said.
“He was so excited,” she said, adding that the family was overwhelmed by the show of support. “I was not expecting anything like this. The outpour of love and support in our community has just been so overwhelming.”
Kat Fulton said she is hopeful their story gives “hope to other families who are just starting their journey with pediatric cancer.”