The young Mateo is fighting a rare form of brain tumor. On Saturday, the neighbors threw him a parade to show they had his back.
CIBOLO, Texas – Hundreds of Cibolo residents came out Saturday to wish a happy birthday to a 6-year-old with a rare form of brain tumor.
Mateo Sparkman-Luna moved his family to San Antonio less than six months ago. For his birthday on Saturday, between 200 and 300 people took part in a parade for his sixth birthday.
“We recently moved here in November and it’s just amazing how quickly the community can reach us to know what we’re going through,” said Mateo’s mother, Paloma Luna. “It just makes moments like this very special and we will definitely cherish it forever.”
All sorts of characters appeared, including a member of Paw Patrol and several Marvel superheroes. But Mateo chose Super Mario as the theme for his party. His driveway was decorated with pots painted green, reminiscent of chain whistles when his parents distributed Mario and Luigi biscuits to thank those who attended the parade.
“It’s a game we definitely play a lot. So when we have our free time we like to play together,” said Mateo’s father Alex Sparkman-Royo.
The parade was organized with the help of Gabriella’s Smile Foundation, a nonprofit that helps families of children with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) who were diagnosed with Mateo last year.
“It’s a very aggressive form of brain tumor that affects the brain stem,” Luna said. “The prognosis is pretty bleak.”
Gabriella’s Smile Foundation is named after its founder’s daughter, who died of the same disease in 2015. They also provided funds for the family to spend on a recent trip to New York for a clinical study.
“Since we went through this situation with our daughter nearly six years ago, we are offering these families this personal attention and support,” said Isabel Torres, co-founder of the Gabriella Smile Foundation.
There is currently no treatment for the disease, but Alex Sparkman-Royo hopes clinical trials like the one in New York buy Mateo more time.
“If we can buy enough time, we hope there are healings on the horizon,” he said. “A lot of work is going on.”