RIDING FOR DAMIAN: Convoy greets 9-year-old tumor patient
11--PLATTSBURGH -- When 9-year-old Damian Sloan's plane landed at Plattsburgh International Airport Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of bikers, joined by members of the New York State Police, Essex County Sheriff's Department and Westport, Keeseville, Peru and Morrisonville Fire Departments, were waiting to escort him and his family back to their home in Westport. At just 18 months old, Damian, the son of Tom and Morgan Sloan, was diagnosed with pilocytic astrocytoma (PA) of suprasellar region, a rare brain tumor located in the front of his brain -- his main nerves and optic nerves are wrapped around the tumor, making it inoperable. WELCOME HOME
Over the past year, he has been receiving chemotherapy treatments at St. Jude Hospital in Tennessee and, Wednesday morning, he received his last treatment to finally send him home. To celebrate, Mountain Riders Motorcycle Club organized a ride where bikers and community members could be there waiting for his plane to land so they could escort and welcome him back home in a way he'll never forget.
"St. Jude is 80% sure that they cured it. So coming from St.
Jude's, I think that's a pretty good thing. He got his last treatment this morning. So this is a celebration.
This is the payoff," Mountain Riders Motorcycle Club President, Pat "Click" Santa Maria, said. "(Damian), we've helped him twice. We did this in 2015; we did it in 2017 for him.
He's been fighting this for awhile, now he's 9 years old...we stay in touch with the family, once you become a recipient of a benefit we put on, it's whatever they need, they can call and we will try to help them in any way." RAISED DONATIONS Not only does the club organize the event, they also raise money in the process.
As everyone was waiting for Damian's plane to land, the club began passing a hat around to ask for donations toward the family. In just a couple hours, more than £700 was raised. Story continues
"Like the parents here, they need money to stay in hotels out of town. They're staying in St. Jude in Tennessee, and to still run a household up here is just amazing.
So, we hand them the money and it doesn't cure the problem," Click said. "But it helps." MADE SOME CALLS
Originally, Damian and his family were supposed to fly into Burlington. When Click found that out, he worked fast to change that. "When his father called me just about a month ago and asked me if we would be interested...he tells me 'we're getting flown into Burlington,' so with that I started asking questions, because I know someone and made a few calls," he said.
"That was to (Sheriff David) Reynolds in Essex (County)...he really connected on that and he got him flown right to here on a private plane." LONG-TIME NURSE Sue Riley, one of Damian's longtime nurses at Elizabethtown Community Hospital, was also at the ride event to show support for him.
"I've known him since he was a little tyke," Riley said. "I was hoping they'd bring him to St. Jude for years, and I'm so glad he got the opportunity."
NOTHING SLOWS HIM DOWN Damian's grandparents, Shannon and Jim Christian, were there with their own bike ready to help bring him home. The large turnout for the event surprised Shannon.
"It's a little overwhelming, but he's going to love it," she said. "He's a tough little boy and his mom (Morgan Sloan) is tough, very tough. She holds it all together very well...they (his parents) keep it together for his sake, but he makes it easy.
"He doesn't let anything slow him down."