Three-year-old Victoria-area boy lives on through campaign to cure cancer
A superhero flexes his muscles while a preschooler looks on in awe. Across the room, another child has a cuddle with a human-sized Easter Bunny.
It's an Easter-themed fundraiser, part of a grassroots effort to find a cure for cancer, launched by Liam Comboye's family.
"He was three when he was diagnosed and he had six months to live, and to watch your child slip through your fingers and being helpless and not being able to do anything…" said his mother, Cari Comboye, trailing off.
She took a deep breath, composed herself, and continued.
"This is how I'm fighting back. For him and for every other family and child that could be diagnosed with this type of cancer."
Liam was diagnosed in April 2017, and died that October. He had Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, known as DIPG – essentially, tumours in the brain stem.
Chemotherapy and radiation can only slow the progression and there is no cure.
But Liam’s family wants to change that with their initiative "The Cure Starts Now Canada."
It is a Canadian chapter of a larger, U.S.-based charity and all of the money raised goes toward research.
"We are raising awareness and raising money to kick the crap out of DIPG," explained Liam’s aunt, Lindsay Walper.
"We have a permanent hole in our hearts, we have a permanent hole in our lives. This is how we are keeping him alive in everybody's lives because we have to keep fighting,” added Comboye.
She realized something was seriously wrong with Liam when one eye turned in.
His family took him right to the hospital, but immediate medical attention did not and could not change the outcome.
"Prior to that he was a healthy normal, playful, smart, little boy," said his mom.
Close to 150 people showed up to their pancake breakfast, which is set to be become an annual event, with the hopes it will grow each year.
Superheroes will always be part of the event because Liam was fascinated by Batman, who once visited him in the hospital.
"After that, he couldn’t stop talking about him: 'Do you think Batman could come over and hang out with me mom? Maybe we can go in dad's man-cave. Is he actually getting the Joker?'" said Comboye.
Batman was a pallbearer at Liam’s funeral.
Comboye said not only does the fundraiser help the battle against cancer, it keeps Liam’s memory alive, and she gets to see the joy on the children’s faces at the event.
In a way, it is fulfilling her little boy’s dream
"Liam was so loving, the gentlest heart, he was so kind, he would give any other kid his toy or just loved helping, and he said when he grew up he wanted to help people."