Santa Claus came early to St. George, Ont., this year.
The small town, about 30 kilometres west of Hamilton, rallied this week to bring Christmas to Evan Leversage, a seven-year-old boy who has been battling brain cancer since he was two.
The boy's family recently learned that his tumour has grown and spread, leading the boy's doctors to suggest the family celebrate Christmas early.
Family, friends and even strangers who heard the news decided to start decorating early. Members of the community have even rolled out some fake snow to adorn Evan's front lawn.
Now, house after house in the small town of about 3,000 people is decorated with holiday lights, and carolers are going door to door. More than 25 holiday floats made their way along Sunnyside Drive — Evan's street — in the Santa Claus parade that capped the week's worth of celebrations.
Police estimate that about 7,000 people turned out Saturday to wish Evan a merry Christmas, including Santa himself who promised to bring the little boy SpongeBob as a present.
That wish came true shortly afterward as the wacky TV character ambled up Evan's driveway on Saturday night, an experience the beaming, gap-toothed boy told reporters was the best part of his day.
Evan's mother, Nicole Wellwood, told CBC News that this will be a week she and her family will never forget. People have been bringing presents and food, and a local jeweller has even made a special pendant for her that features a picture of Evan.
"Just seeing the crowds, it choked me up," she said after the parade. "It just goes to show that this goes beyond a community … and he is a very lucky boy to have so many people fighting behind him."
On Friday, Wellwood said the Brantford police made Evan an honorary officer, complete with a plaque and uniform.
"Evan has always wanted to become a police officer, so yesterday that was part of his wish and he had that come true," she said.
Not to be outdone, local firefighters gave Evan a fireman's hat and uniform to wear after the parade.
The family of pop star Justin Bieber, who grew up in nearby Stratford, also sent Evan a letter wishing him a Merry Christmas, and giving him a Batman baseball hat.
The whole experience has been an emotional roller-coaster, Wellwood said.
"As sad as this situation is that we're dealing with, this has brought a lot of sunshine to all of our family," she said of the early Christmas celebration. "The gestures that people all across the world have given our family. The prayers, the presents — everything. We will never forget any of this."