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Bundled up in a blanket and sitting on his mom’s lap in an SUV on his driveway, four-year-old Cade Winters watched a parade of an estimated 1,000 cars and trucks pass by in his honor on Sunday.
According to his mom, Candace Winters, Cade’s reaction was “the cutest,” as he would giggle at the fire trucks and police cars as they went by.
“[He’d say] ‘Wow, mom, look a fire truck is coming!,” Candace Winters told the Northwest Herald. “He was just ... so excited by those.”
Candace Winters said hearing her son giggle warmed her soul.
Nature’s Scholars Enrichment Center organized the parade for Cade, as he used to be a student of theirs, until he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in June 2018. He had to stop going after his illness progressed.
The center still kept up with Cade’s parents, however, and his mom would give them updates on how he was doing. Although at one point, Cade had gone into remission, his family recently got news that his mom called their worst nightmare – that the cancer had spread to his bones.
When the center checked it on Cade and were told that he was having a lot more pain, the staff suggested the car parade to cheer him up.
Speaking after the parade, Renee McCauley, co-owner of Nature’s Scholars Enrichment Center, said her “heart is full.”
The parade was set to start in the Johnsburg High School parking lot. McCauley said the front and back parking lot of the high school, and all of nearby Hiller Park, was filled.
“It was a truly, truly blessed day,” McCauley said. In addition to honoring Cade, the center also wanted to raise awareness of childhood cancer, and how it is underfunded and under-researched.
The Johnsburg Police Department, fire trucks from the McHenry Township Fire Protection District in Johnsburg, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, the McHenry Conservation District, members of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, towing companies, tractors and, of course, people from Johnsburg and surrounding communities all came out to show their support for Cade. Cars were decorated with window paint, posters and balloons, saying “We love you Cade!” and “#Cadestrong.”
“It was just incredible,” McCauley said. “You could see that Cade was tired ... and so it was gut-wrenching to see how tired he is. But it was so heartwarming to see him again and to see the smiles and emotions on his family’s his face, [by] showing them that they are loved.”
Despite how tired he was, McCauley said his teacher who brought up the back of the parade still got to see Cade’s famous smile, reminiscent of the shy but cuddly student McCauley said he was.
“He had an amazing giggle and his smile was amazing, too,” McCauley said.
Both of Cade’s grandmothers and his grandpa, his aunt, uncle and two of his cousins were in attendance for the parade, and his dad, Chris and six-year-old brother, Rylan, who his mom said has been a “great support to Cade” also were there.
The family shed lots of tears, Candace Winters said, “overwhelming tears of joy and admiration” at the support being shown.
Although he was only at Nature’s Scholars for a couple of months, they still have been “amazing” to the Winters, Candace said.
The center has held fundraisers for him, and one of Cade’s teachers even shaved his head.
A bucket, set up at the high school on Sunday, let parade participants donate to help with the family’s medical bills.
“[Nature’s Scholars] have just been unreal in their love and support to us,” Candace Winters said.