When 12-year-old Kalina Young stepped into her living room Sunday and saw almost 300 people standing outside her home on Mullen Drive, her eyes filled with tears.
“Oh my God,” she said, while clutching her grandfather Keith Bushey’s arm.
Kalina could not believe so many people were waiting to sing Christmas carols to her. It was a wonderful and welcome way to bring the holiday season to her in a year that has already included three operations to remove tumors from her brain as she battles an aggressive case of cancer.
The event was organized by Maddie’s Mark Foundation, a group that aims to give children suffering major illnesses their “best day ever.”
Erin Musto, president of the foundation, said Kalina loves Christmas and the traditions that come with it. “We put the event on Facebook and were unsure how many people were going to show up,” Musto said. “But judging by the growing crowd it seems like it really caught on and a lot of people showed up.”
She described Kalina as a “very edgy 12-year-old girl” who is not “infatuated with Justin Bieber.”
“She is very funny and has a great sense of humor,” Musto said. “She has remained in good spirits considering the severity of her illness.”
Kalina sat on her front porch and watched while members of the community sing tunes such as “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
While pointing to the large crowd, Tim Joyce of Rotterdam said it is amazing how the community showed up to support Kalina.
“This is incredible,” he said, adding that he does not know Kalina personally. “She has been through so much in the past year and it is really great for us, as a community, to be able to do this.”
Kim Adikes, of Colonie, who dressed as Mrs. Claus, said an event like this shows that people still have good hearts.
“We hear a lot of negative things about the world and all of the terrible things that people are doing, but this proves that there is still a lot of good people in the world that are willing to do great things to help one another,” she said.
Bushey said the event warmed his heart and blew him away.
“The fact that people would come out here on a freezing cold Sunday and sing to my granddaughter is truly incredible,” he said. “It is really touching.”
Bushey added that while it is difficult to forget about the tough road that lies ahead for Kalina, Sunday afternoon was a small reprieve from those thoughts.
“I’m not sure anything could make us forget about it, but today certainly did help a little,” he said. “We are so thankful to live in such a wonderful neighborhood.”
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