November 12, 2013

Ohio town comes together to give dying boy an early Christmas

Devin Kohlman, 13, died Monday, but not before the community created a wintry celebration for him.

By John Seewer
The Associated Press

TOLEDO, Ohio – A boy whose last wish was to be home for his favorite holiday has died, two weeks after his hometown welcomed him with a Christmas tree outside his window and a motorcycle-riding Santa Claus.

click image to enlarge

Balloons are released as a large crowd sings Christmas carols outside of Devin Kohlman’s home in Port Clinton, Ohio, on Oct. 28.

The Associated Press

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Devin Kohlman rests at his home in Port Clinton, Ohio, on Oct. 28, after returning from a Cincinnati hospital. Kohlman, a boy whose last wish was to be home for his favorite holiday, has died, two weeks after his hometown welcomed him with a Christmas tree outside his window and a motorcycle-riding Santa Claus.

The Associated Press

Doctors had told the family of 13-year-old Devin Kohlman that he didn’t have long to live, so residents in the city of Port Clinton along Lake Erie spent the past few weeks giving him an early Christmas.

They sang carols outside the family’s apartment, piled tons of shaved ice to look like drifting snow near his window and decorated a park with colorful strings of lights, reindeer cutouts and a red “Merry Christmas, Devin” sign.

Devin, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in the summer of 2012, died Monday afternoon, said family friend Roseann Hickman.

Family and friends gathered for a vigil after his death while an early-season snow fell over the city.

Devin was flown from Cincinnati, where he was being treated, to Port Clinton on Oct. 27 so that he could spend his final days at home. Residents filled the city’s main street late at night as Devin was driven home with a police escort.

While he couldn’t go outside, he could see from a window how the community was helping his last wish come true.

Hundreds of people, some in Santa hats, sang Christmas carols after his return and Santa himself showed up on a motorcycle.

“It brought him a sense of joy to know so many people cared,” Hickman said.

Thousands of cards from as far away as France and Ireland filled the family’s apartment. They had been sent by people who had heard his story, Hickman said.

“Their entire apartment is covered in cards, all over the wall,” she said. “I can’t even begin to fathom the number.”

Toys and teddy bears were sent, too. Donation boxes were set up all over the city of about 6,000 people, which sits about midway between Toledo and Cleveland.

Devin gave away many of the gifts, making sure his classmates who came to visit took home a stuffed bear, Hickman said.

“He touched a lot of people,” Hickman said. “I hope our community continues to show the love for each other.”

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