MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A 5-year-old boy is battling terminal brain cancer.
Once the Myrtle Beach community and young cancer survivors learned the out-of-state family was vacationing along the Grand Strand for the weekend, they all rallied together to help make the Johnsons feel loved and supported.
A surprise welcome party with a group of people and all of 5-year-old Ricky Johnson's favorites things is what the family saw right when they first pulled up from Georgia.
"I'm excited, emotional, overwhelmed, and just very happy that there is people out there that do care," said Magan Johnson, Ricky's mother.
Johnson said two weeks ago they got the news that Ricky was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.
"When you have a child that is normal and he goes from normal to being sick, it's really, really hard," she said.
The party featured two trucks and paramedics with the Myrtle Beach Fire Department, Spider-Man, an ice cream truck, face painting, food and games.
"We come from out of state and we come here and it's like you all knew us already. This is great; it feels really great," said Johnson.
Melanie Emery, the mother of Fallon Emery, also known as Fierce Fallon, helped make the celebration happen. Her daughter was also diagnosed with glioblastoma and she has spent the last five years beating her diagnosis.
It's Emery's mission to make sure other families feel loved while fighting their illness.
"You hear a 5-year-old boy has terminal brain cancer and your heart breaks. As a mom of a cancer child, you immediately go into what can I do mode, how can I help and do everything I possibly can," said Emery.
Fallon Emery and Hannah Weaterford, two cancer survivors and best friends, were at the party to welcome Ricky.
"It's the best feeling in the world. It's a good feeling, it's relief that you can go and act like a normal kid even though you don't feel like it all the time," said Fallon. "Once you hear the words cancer you kind of have to grow up and understand you might die soon, so you need to grow up and figure it out early. You get a new take on life and want to live life to the fullest.
The organization Courageous Kidz: A Safe Haven for Kidz with Cancer helps families across South Carolina. Debbie Stephenson, founder and director of the organization, spread the word about Ricky and his family visiting Myrtle Beach and said the response was huge.
"Sadly, children do die from this and I know a lot of families with children who have passed away. Five of them were the first ones to contact me saying we want to help, even one all the way from Washington state," Stephenson said.
She then got a group of locals together to make it happen.
"We were asked, 'Can you get some gift cards together?' I said, 'Oh no, we will go above and beyond that and give him the best welcome party out there,'" Emery said. "So I started making phone calls and put something on my Facebook and the outpouring of love and support has been completely overwhelming."
The Johnsons also received Ripley's Aquarium tickets, a family photo shoot on the beach and passes to Ocean Lakes Campground.