TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A boy whose last wish was to be home in time for Christmas has died, two weeks after his hometown welcomed him with a festive tree outside his window and a motorcycle-riding Santa Claus.
Doctors had told the family of 13-year-old Devin Kohlman that he didn’t have long to live so hundreds of residents in the Ohio city of Port Clinton along Lake Erie spent the past few weeks giving him an early Christmas.
They sang carols outside the family’s apartment, piled tons of shaved ice into drifting snow near his window and decorated a park with colorful strings of lights, reindeer cutouts and a red “Merry Christmas, Devin” sign.
Devin, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in the summer of 2012, died Monday afternoon, his family said. Relatives and friends gathered for a vigil after his death while an early-season snow fell over the city.
“He had the gift of being able to see how much everyone loved him,” his mother, Alexis Kohlman, said Tuesday.
Devin was flown from Cincinnati, where he was being treated, to Port Clinton on Oct. 27 so that he could spend his final days at home. Residents filled the city’s main street late at night as Devin was driven home with a police escort.
While he couldn’t go outside, he could see from a window how the community was helping his last wish come true.
Hundreds of people, some in Santa hats, sang Christmas carols after his return and Santa himself showed up on a motorcycle.
“It brought him a sense of joy to know so many people cared,” said family friend Roseann Hickman.
Thousands of cards from as far away as France, Australia and Russia filled the family’s apartment. They had been sent by people who had heard his story.
“We read as many of the cards as we could to him,” his mother said. “He’s reminded everybody all over the world of what’s important and that’s love.”
Toys and teddy bears were sent, too. Donation boxes were set up all over the city of about 6,000 people, which sits about midway between Toledo and Cleveland.
Devin gave away many of the gifts, making sure his classmates who came to visit took home a stuffed bear, Hickman said.
“He touched a lot of people,” Hickman said. “I hope our community continues to show the love for each other.”