Story by Alexandria Lindstrom | Photography Courtesy of Alexandria Sheriff's Office
Cancer is a diagnosis that’s devastating at any age, but even more so when that diagnosis is given to a child. Childhood is a time that should be filled with hope and joy, as the whole world is new and big and limitless. But the five little letters that spell cancer can have huge impact, turning what childhood should be into dreams that might not be within reach.
For the family of Whitaker Weinburger, the diagnosis of neuroblastoma when Whitaker was only a year old cruelly shattered their hopes of a normal childhood for him, filling their days with surgeries, blood transfusions, and rounds of chemotherapy that stole his energy. Each birthday reached was a milestone, but they were shadowed with fear with the threat of his disease hanging heavily over the celebrations.
Having just reached his fourth birthday, Whitaker and his family were able to celebrate with abandon, as the toddler isn’t just surviving, he’s now thriving. His latest scans showed he’s cancer free, which might be the greatest birthday gift he will ever receive. It was truly a reason to party, so when his mom, Erin Weinburger, posted on Facebook requesting owners of yellow cars in the Alexandria area to line their street in celebration, it didn’t just get a little bit of attention, it went viral.
A longtime fan of Transformers whose favorite bot is the Bumblebee, Whitaker’s birthday wish was to receive a yellow toy car resembling the character. His request was simple enough, but with this being his first cancer-free birthday ever, his parents wanted to make that wish come true in a very big way. Come true it did, Whitaker was greeted by more than 100 yellow cars and trucks lining the full one-mile stretch between his house and his preschool the morning of his birthday.
“We were there to support the whole family during this exciting occasion and were very happy and eager to be part of the celebration,” said Lieutenant Sean Casey of the Alexandria Sherriff’s Office, who was on hand with other members of the sheriff’s office to help manage traffic.
“It was a great example of what a community can do when they rally around a great cause, and this was a very easy cause to get behind. The community really represented well, and the outpouring of support was a great thing to see.”
-Lt. Sean Casey
Whitaker was overcome by sheer magnitude of it all, and his excitement was contagious. While he might have looked out at the sea of yellow before him and simply saw a birthday wish come true, there was something much more powerful at work: Those hulking pieces of metal and fiberglass were transformed into a physical representation of love, support, and perhaps most importantly, hope.