Six-year-old Kiley Sullivan, who was diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer in the spring of 2014, was too ill to light the tree last year but this year will have the honor along with her older sister, Allie.
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford resident Kiley Sullivan was supposed to help light the Blue Back Square Christmas tree at the Holiday Stroll in December 2014, but the young cancer patient was at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center instead.
Older sister Allie Sullivan stepped in and was thrilled to light the tree on her sister’s behalf.
Blue Back Square Marketing Director Elizabeth Zigmont confirmed that this year the plan is for Kiley, 6, and Allie, 10, to share the honor along with Santa.
The official lighting will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 3. Carol Goodyear, a friend of the family who arranged for their involvement with the tree lighting last year, helped make the arrangements again this year.
“The girls don’t know it yet,” their mom, Emily Sullivan, said on Wednesday afternoon. Sullivan said she hasn’t told them because if Kiley starts running a fever she will have to go to the hospital and she doesn’t want either of the girls to be disappointed.
Kiley, now a first-grader at Duffy Elementary School, was diagnosed with the rare childhood cancer Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma just two weeks after her fifth birthday in April 2014. She has been battling the disease ever since, and Sullivan has been chronicling the experience and receiving an outpouring of community support on the “Princess Kiley” Facebook page.
In October, Make-A-Wish gave Kiley the full princess treatment when she, Allie, and both parents were whisked away from Duffy Elementary School in a horse-drawn carriage and treated to a trip to Disney World.
On Thursday the family will have another horse-drawn carriage ride, from Raymond Road, up Memorial to Isham to the Blue Back Square tree in front of Cheesecake Factory, where both girls will light the tree. The public is encouraged to watch and cheer them on.
Sullivan said if all goes well, she will tell the girls on Thursday morning, and anticipates that they will be very excited about the event. “They’ll want to wear something fancy, and probably some silly Santa hats, too,” Sullivan said.
Kiley has been feeling well lately, and Sullivan is hopeful that the carriage ride and tree lighting will work out this year.
“It makes me nervous to say that, but she’s feeling good today,” Sullivan said. Kiley hasn’t been in the hospital overnight in about two months, Sullivan said, the longest break in quite some time. Kiley was able to go to school for only 11 days in kindergarten, Sullivan said, but this year has only missed 16 days.
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