The Chrismas Spirit

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Featured

Published on December 07, 2011 with No Comments

Dejon Walker is 13 years old.

He lives in Valparaiso with his family and attends Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

Up until last year, says his mom, Shanun, he was a mainstay on the honor roll and an accomplished mathlete.

A typical pre-teen then, he loved to ride his bike, hang out with friends and play all kinds of games.

Last year, he spent six months in Riley Hospital for Children, being treated for pulmonary lymphangiectasia. His streak on the honor roll at Jefferson was uninterrupted. The school listed him there, for his accomplishments in citizenship.

Surely Christmas angels still walk the earth.

Such is the effect the smiling Dejon has on most everybody he meets.

Jefferson school counselor Deb Kleist said Dejon is “A wonderful child.

“He’s just a pleasure to be around,” she said. “He works hard. But it’s his smile and his positive attitude that makes him special.”

At this time last year, while at Riley, the family attended a party for patients.

“The children got to draw on construction paper, any Christmas design,” said Shanun.

“We didn’t even know they would take, from those pictures, the designs of Christmas cards the Riley Children’s Foundation the following Christmas.”

Which is now. And Dejon has a winning design in the 20-year continuous program.

“Parents, patients and employees vote,” said Shanun. “I was there when he made it. It was nice but we had no idea this would happen.”

They were recommended to Riley by their family doctor, Dr. Jeffrey Miller, in Valparaiso.

It was a fortunate recommendation. Now 13 and back at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, “He’s doin’ fine, doin’ good,” said his mom.

“It was awesome to keep him on the honor roll, and now he’s still on it, back in class.”

Dejon himself said, “I am good. When I heard about the card being picked, I was very excited. My friends, everybody, was screaming.

“And I have a lot of friends.”

He is still processing his recovery. He and his mom go to Indianapolis every other month for a checkup. They made an extra trip this month for the annual party.

“I tried to thank them, last week at my checkup,” Dejon said. “It’s so amazing; they take great care of me.

“I love them.”

Shanun has been in this battle with her son since he was diagnosed at age 5. When fluid started building around his lungs, she knew they’d spend the extended stay at Riley.

“It was tough, but we were able to adapt. Last year was the worst. His fluid invaded his heart, he had another infusion and they had to drain it and he was  intubated; we could not wean off him off intubation.

“But they took care of us, everything we needed. And he is doing better.”

The cards sell on packs of 10 for $8. They can be purchased at Riley or online:

Companies can order embossed cards with a message and their company logo.

The other designers:

Faith Carver, age 5, Beech Grove, snowman. She enjoys dancing and music. She has been a Riley patient since she was two weeks old.

Selam Bekel, 11, Plainfield, Christmas tree. She was diagnosed with leukemia at age 9 and spent 17 days in Intensive Care. She completed treatment a year ago and now focuses on reading, riding her bike and playing with her Barbies.

Tyrelle Lewis, 17, Evansville, angel design. Bone cancer of the right knee was discovered in February. He plays football, basketball and is a drum major. His treatment continues.

Brienna Slonaker, 11, Plymouth, snowman. Crohn’s disease has sent her to Riley several times in the past five years. She spent part of the summer, with her grandmother, making pillowcases for her fellow travelers at Riley. She also is in 4-H and likes photography, music and reading.

For more information on the Riley Children’s Foundation, call 317-634-4474.

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About Mike Siroky

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the

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