The teddy bear sidekicks behind real-life superheros

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. In this case, our superhero is in the form of a 9-year-old boy named Ayden.

He will tell you he didn’t really feel much pain in the last two years. In fact, he has felt pretty good. That’s despite going through treatment for a rare, aggressive form of leukemia.

“He was extremely resilient through all of it. Ayden kept a smile on his face, just kept chugging along, like nothing was wrong,” explained Ayden’s mom, Samantha Jones.

He may not have been scared, but she was. She took him to urgent care after everyone in their family got the flu, and Ayden was the only one who wasn’t getting better. As she explains in her blog, doctors quickly diagnosed him with a rare form of leukemia, and eventually put him in a medically induced coma.

“That’s when it was touch and go. Obviously, he doesn’t remember, thank God, but they kept throwing around the word if. If he makes it through the week, if he makes it to tomorrow,” she said.

But this story isn’t about a patient, it’s about a superhero and every superhero has a sidekick. In Ayden’s case, that sidekick is a teddy bear named Billy.

“(He) means pretty much everything, like this is my best friend in the world,” Ayden said about his bear.

He got it from the Billy Bear Hugs Foundation and Make-A-Wish Foundation while he was going through treatment at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.

Ayden and his family were in the process of moving to Michigan from Indiana when he was diagnosed and didn’t have a big support network here. His mom says Billy the Bear, and all the love and help that came with him from the foundation was priceless.

Hundreds and hundreds of “sidekicks” will end up on the ice at the Catholic Central hockey game against Forest Hills Northern Saturday night to benefit the Billy Bear Hugs Foundation.

Ayden will be there too as a special guest of the Cougars hockey players with the red carpet rolled out onto the ice for him so he can help drop the puck. He says seeing the fans throw all those bears onto the ice will be cool, but not as cool as getting into ice skates for the first time in his life.

Fans will see a smiling, healthy, happy boy, which is exactly how Ayden has always seen himself. In fact, he seems surprised to look at a picture of himself from when he started treatment when he had lost his hair and a lot of weight.

“Yeah, I don’t remember it like that. I remember my eyes were always wide open and I was always holding a full thumbs up. It makes me feel like, sometimes, we look different on the outside (than how we feel),” he said.

Even though Ayden now looks and feels healthy, his mom says the worry never stops.

“It seems like a fairytale ending. Every three months, he gets bone marrow biopsies to make sure (the leukemia) doesn’t come back. He’ll do that for another year. I hold my breath every three months to get the call for the results. You just have to have hope and faith that he’s going to continue to be healthy, because it’s not always the case for everyone,” she said.

In the meantime, they plan to celebrate the two year anniversary of Ayden’s diagnoses with a bowling and laser tag party on Jan. 15, and continue to celebrate every milestone he reaches where he’s cancer free, and his Billy Bear, his sidekick, will be there to celebrate with him.


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