More than 1,000 strangers came together to throw an early Halloween celebration for a 5-year-old boy with terminal cancer.
In 2018, Alexandros Hurdakis of Hamilton, Ontario was diagnosed with ependymoma, a brain tumor that grows in the brain or spinal cord.
Alexandros had surgeries to remove most of the tumor, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. However, the tumor grew back, prompting more medical treatments, the last of which was provided earlier this year.
Because the tumor sits on his brain stem, Alexandros can't properly swallow or speak, so he breathes with a tracheostomy tube and eats with a gastrostomy tube. The boy also uses oxygen because he has sleep apnea.
“Two weeks ago, we learned that Alex is terminal," Alexandros’ father Nick told TODAY Parents. "Doctors said he wouldn’t be able to handle more surgery, and chemo and radiation haven’t worked."
Alexandros' parents, Nick and Kira, wanted to make this Halloween special for their son, who really wanted to visit a haunted attraction in Niagara Falls with his siblings, Kostas, 8 and Eirene, 2.
When doctors discouraged travel, family friend Paula Tzouanakis Anderson raised her hand to help.
"I thought, 'OK, let's bring Halloween to Alexandros,'" Tzouanakis Anderson told TODAY Parents.
Tzouanakis Anderson wanted to create a haunted house in Alex's backyard, so she asked a friend to request donated decorations in a Hamilton community group on Facebook.
A few hours later, the post was buzzing with activity.
"People were messaging me asking, 'How can I help?'" she said. "It was overwhelming, but I was determined to make Halloween a memory for the family."
Tzouanakis Anderson suspected that the evolving celebration — equal parts Halloween parade and block party — was about to swell in size, so she asked city officials for roadblocks to be placed on Alexandros' street.
As excitement for the party grew, face painters and cotton candy and popcorn vendors volunteered services for what Tzouanakis Anderson figured would be 200 guests.
On the evening of Sept. 14, an estimated 1,000 people congregated on Alexandros' street to celebrate the holiday with him.
Neighbors decorated their homes with spooky ornaments, and cars bore animatronics and signs in support of Alexandros. People dressed as Freddy Krueger, Darth Vader, skeletons, scarecrows, witches and more.
Face painters adorned children and city firefighters and police officers kicked off a car-and-motorcycle parade.
"The incredible part was, these were mostly complete strangers," Tzouanakis Anderson said. "I hugged so many people I didn't know existed."
Alexandros had the time of his life.
"He was really happy, waving and high-fiving everyone even though he was exhausted," Nick said. "We never expected this."