Devin Kohlman (pictured Oct. 28, 2013) rests in his Port Clinton, Ohio, home after returning from a Cincinnati hospital. Kohlman, who had been battling an aggressive form of cancer, wanted to return home for Christmas.
Catharine Hadley/News Herald/AP
It was only last summer that 13-year-old Devin Kohlman
of Port Clinton, Ohio, was diagnosed with brain cancer
. But by fall, he was already making his last wish: to be home in time for Christmas.
Ultimately, the story that unfolded is an inspiring example of a town pulling together when a young resident needed support the most.
Devin, who was receiving treatment in Cincinnati, flew back home on Oct. 27 to be greeted by a police escort and, later, friends, neighbors and strangers who would rally around him. They sent toys, teddy bears and good wishes – though Devin gave away
most of his presents, gifting the stuffed animals to classmates who came to visit him, family friend Roseann Hickman told the Associated Press
. Hickman also noted that thousands of cards, some from as far away as France and Ireland, had filled the Kohlman home when Devin returned.
Sadly, doctors told the Kohlman family that Devin didn't have much longer – it looked as though he might not live to see the Christmas that was his last wish. So Port Clinton did something that kids usually only can dream of: They made the holiday come sooner.
"I said we were going to throw him a big Christmas party,” family friend Hondo Zapata told MarionStar.com
. "It really took off. Everyone dropped what they were doing and came together in our community."
Residents sang carols outside the Kohlman's home, piled tons of shaved ice from the local skating rink into drifting snow near his window, and decorated a park he could see from his window with lights, reindeer cutouts, trees and a sign that said "Merry Christmas, Devin." The city
even switched the white globes in its downtown streetlights for the colored ones traditionally used at Christmas, and sent the Kohlmans a picture.
Finally, Santa himself showed up outside Devin's home one night, on the back of a motorcycle (courtesy of the Lost Riders motorcycle club), to complete the picture. And while "Santa Claus on a motorcycle got the biggest smile I’ve seen in a while [from Devin]," according to his mother, it was Santa's promise to Devin that hit us the hardest.
"You'll be the one who gets the moon this year," he told Devin during his visit, according to The Port Clinton News Herald
An early-season snow fell on Port Clinton as friends and family gathered for a vigil Nov. 11 after Devin's death. "It's amazing that it's snowing right now," Mandy Rohde, a Kohlman family friend and mother to one of Devin's classmates, told The Marion Star
. "He wanted Christmas, and it's Christmas in Port Clinton."
"[Devin] touched a lot of people," Hickman said. "I hope our community continues to show the love for each other."