Emma Preston was the center of attention Sunday afternoon. Relatives, friends, and complete strangers came together to give the six-year-old girl a parade. Moore County Sheriff's Office deputies, police officers from Dumas, Cactus, and the Dumas Independent School District (DISD), emergency medical technicians from Moore County, cheerleaders and sports teams from Dumas, Sunray, and Stratford, and many others -- including a crop duster flying overhead -- paraded down Madison Street in Dumas, stopping from time to time to interact with the little girl sitting in a wheel chair, who has been struggling with cancer for the past two years. She was surrounded by family and friends in front of her home. She smiled and waved. She petted a horse. She blew kisses to Santa and Mrs. Claus.
"She did enjoy it," said Tiffany Swinford, who, along with others, organized the event. "I was so excited to see that it turned out better than I expected." She did not know the Prestons before. But the family went to church with her grandmother, so she heard about Emma's diagnosis with a germ cell brain tumor on her pituitary gland in August of 2017, and she followed developments in her case. The little girl, daughter of Chandler and Natasha Preston, endured months in a hospital, surgeries, chemotherapy, and proton therapy. She had 18 months where she was cancer free, but the tumors returned in March 2018, and after more chemotherapy and radiation, her parents made the decision to bring her home.
"Whenever Emma was first diagnosed with cancer, we did a fundraiser. When I heard they had stopped treatment and brought her home, something just told me I needed to do something to try to help the family. I talked to Natasha to get the feel for what would make Emma smile. Somebody asked about a parade, and we started planning it."
Swinford and the people she enlisted to help know a lot of people in the area. Everyone they asked to participate or donate something jumped at the opportunity. It was no problem finding people willing to help give the little girl and her family, including her brother, Greyson, a good day. "I got a call, and I was happy to come," said DISD Police Department Chief Larry Payne.
After the parade, the family and friends had a "Trunk or Treat" event for Emma and Greyson in the cul-de-sac at the end of Madison Street.
Swinford and others also have planned a benefit fundraiser for the family to take place at the Hacienda Garcia Event Center on October 19 from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm. It is called Emmapalooza. The entry fee is $5.00 per person, $20.00 for five people and $40.00 for 10. The money will go to help the Chandlers with medical and other expenses. Swinford says there will be a costume contest, a DJ, door prizes, games, a bounce house, dunking booth, a raffle, and more.
Swinford says they are still seeking donations of candy and soft drinks for the event. She can be contacted at 806-717-8187. "Thank you for everyone who has helped," she said. "It is amazing to see how many people have come together for this little girl."