Neighborhood celebrates Halloween and Christmas early for child with terminal prognosis

Posted at 10:21 PM, Oct 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-25 00:23:28-04

WEST JORDAN, Utah -- On a 70-degree day in the middle of fall, it seems the seasons don’t apply to a neighborhood in West Jordan, where a glimmer of hope hung from every home Thursday night.

"It’s Christmas on a Friday here in October. I got tombstones for Halloween, mixed with some lights for that guy over there, for Ethan,” said neighbor Landon Wells.

Down the street, in front of Ethan Van Leuven's house, it was more of the same.

“They're going to put some Christmas stuff up,” said Becky Papenfuss, who is a family friend.

It was a celebration of the holidays for a family, who you would think, had little to celebrate.

“He's looked forward to Christmas since last Christmas,” said Ethan’s mother, Jennifer Van Leuven.

Last week, the Van Leuvens learned that their Ethan's battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia was coming to an end, as doctors found he had weeks, maybe days to live.

“He’s doing OK. He's had some rough days,” Van Leuven said.

But for their neighborhood, the prognosis meant the 4 year old had to start living.

It started with Halloween on Tuesday. Families on the blocked dressed up for an early evening of trick or treating, cheering Ethan along as his family pushed him in a stroller.

“Ethan wanted to go door to door, so we made it happen” said family friend Anja Peterson.

The festivities continued with Christmas Eve on Thursday.

"It's been a choice experience. It's been an honor,” said Papenfuss, “We love them. We love him.”

When the Van Leuvens walked outside, they found their entire block had traded in the Halloween decorations for holiday lights. Not long after a crowd arrived on their front lawn to celebrate, a fire truck pulled up with Santa and Mrs. Clause on board.

“They've touched so many families, sorry I'm going to cry, and so many people, I just thank God that they could do this for him,” said Stephanie Dykstra, who is a friend of the family.

While this may be the last time the Van Leuvens get to celebrate the holidays with Ethan, in just four years, he managed to bring a little light and hope to a neighborhood in West Jordan.

“As soon as we start with the festivities, he lights up,” Van Leuven said, “It’s been really fun to see.”