With a Batman balloon tied to his wheelchair, 5-year-old Jayden Barber was crowned the Prince of Springfield Township’s Relay for Life on Friday.
Several biopsies done a few weeks ago have left him weak, and he’s dealing with graft vs. host disease from his bone marrow transplant, but the little prince from Boardman is still in remission.
“He has never been well enough long enough since he was first diagnosed. And he was first diagnosed when he was 2 and he’s almost 6, so this is the first time he’s been well enough to actually come to one of these events so we’re really excited about it,” said Jayden’s mom, Charlene Barber.
She also is excited for another first: Jayden starts school this fall.
“He’s going to be starting Heartland Christian School in the fall, so it’s a huge milestone for us that we didn’t think we were ever going to get to,” Charlene said.
As Jayden led the survivor lap with the King and Queen of the Relay, participants from 12 teams stood on the sidelines. Luminaries for those who lost their battle lined the park’s trails.
This relay, with twice as many teams as last year, was held at Welker Park instead of on a track, which is something organizers said brings the community closer.
“We’re fighting for everyone, we’re not just fighting for one person. We’re fighitng for a cure to end cancer completely and that’s what it takes. It takes us all. It just doesn’t take one or two people, it takes us all,” said Springfield Relay event chair Anthony Oliver.
He said the fundraising goal for this year’s relay is $35,000.
Although Jayden and his family couldn’t stay the whole night, the Barber’s were proud to see him make it to his first survivor’s lap.
“He’s a little firecracker, you know. He is a fighter and that’s what’s gotten him through because he would never just lay down and take it,” Charlene said.