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Very good children meet Santa at tree lighting

By Dwight Sparks

The Clemmons Courier

Tiny leukemia patient Abby Keating, 2, threw the switch to light the elegant 20-foot Christmas tree on the lawn of Clemmons village hall in early December. About 200 people attend the annual event moved this year to the expanded front lawn of the village hall.

Children — all of them very good this year — lined up to sit on the knee of Santa Claus, who bore a striking resemblance to former village manager Larry Kirby. Mayor Nick Nelson, dressed in a flattering elf costume with very large ears, led the children to Santa, one of his last official acts as mayor before his term ends.

Abby Keating’s mother, Michelle, had to occasionally wipe a tear as she recalled the recent months of her daughter’s struggle with leukemia, diagnosed Sept. 5.

“While their lives were turned upside down, they were determined to fight this disease with prayer, a leading medical team, and love and support from friends and family,” said council member Mike Rogers, a neighbor.

Earlier, the Clemmons West neighbors had staged a special Halloween party for Abby. Rogers lobbied for the little girl to light the tree.

Rogers struggled emotionally through an introduction for Abby before she turned the Christmas tree into a beautiful display of lights. “This sweet child has shown the world that she is quite the warrior with already completing three founds of her chemotherapy,” he said. “We are beyond thrilled to have her with us tonight.”

He asked those attending to remember three things the tree represents:

• A community of love.

• A spirit of hope.

• And Abby Keating, a child that radiates her own rays of light.

Abby has completed three rounds of intense chemotherapy, a process that requires a hospital stay lasting 21 to 35 days. A fourth round is starting this week. As usual, Santa arrived on a huge Clemmons fire truck. Chick-fil-A appropriately served milk and cookies to the children.