A parade of 651 fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, motorcycles, tow trucks, cars and bicycles surprised an 8-year-old battling cancer in Leesport on May 23.
The procession delivered smiles and gifts to Ashley Way where Schuylkill Valley Elementary School student Riley Rejniak sat with family and neighbors. He celebrated his 8th birthday in the midst of a three-year battle with cancer.
Vehicles gathered at the Schuylkill Valley Elementary School parking lot and in the Redner’s lot. The parade included 125 emergency vehicles; car and motorcycle clubs including the Blue Knights of Pennsylvania, a law enforcement motorcycle club; and several tow trucks from V&M Towing, Leesport; and Isamoyer's Towing Recovery, Blandon.
Friends, neighbors, relatives and others rode in cars and trucks, many filled with children who extended their arms and heads out of windows and sunroofs, sometimes holding homemade “Happy Birthday” banners.
Rebecca Zeiner, 20, and her sister, Jess, 24, who are neighbors of the Rejniaks, volunteered to accept and wipe down with a cloth the many gifts that participants offered as they rolled past family. Their brother, Chris 18, who is graduating from Schuylkill Valley High School, sat with Riley and his family.
Riley’s birthday coincides almost to the day to the one-year anniversary that the family received news that Riley's neuroblastoma was back despite undergoing months of treatment — which included two types of chemotherapy, surgery to remove a large tumor, a stem cell transplant, 12 rounds of radiation and five rounds of immunotherapy.
Neuroblastoma is a childhood cancer that begins in young nerve cells, usually within the adrenal glands, abdomen, chest, neck or pelvis, according to the American Cancer Society.
According to a Reading Eagle article published online May 23, Greg Rejniak said the community support the family has received, including a host of large fundraisers to help defray the cost of travel and other expenses associated with Riley’s treatment, has been amazing.
“To see him go from being wonderful to start to battle this monster, it’s just heartbreaking, so this community response is just phenomenal,” he said.
A Facebook page, Rally For Riley Rejniak, has been created to keep community members informed about how Riley is doing and how they can help at upcoming events to raise funds.