The holidays are usually a time spent celebrating with friends and family, but for Carl and Leslie Boylen the holidays took on an entirely new meaning when their son Logan was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
At the time of his diagnosis in 2016 Logan was 10 days away from his 14th birthday and about to start his freshman year of high school. It was a “stomach punching blow,” Leslie said.
“Instead of starting marching band practice, we had to break the news to his friends,” she said.
Logan immediately started undergoing treatment and it was a long road. It took three attempts to put him into remission and he was unable to leave the hospital between treatments because “everything that could happen, did happen,” Leslie said. Their supposed-to-be 14-day stay turned into a 92-day stay.
As the holiday season approached, Leslie and Carl knew they had to do something to help their son, who is, as Leslie says, a “total Christmas nut,” celebrate his favorite holiday in spite of the circumstances.
“We made the absolute best of an absolutely crappy situation,” she said. “We turned his room into a Christmas wonderland with a full-size tree and tons of lights and decorations. It became a source of happiness for a lot of the kids and adults on the floor.”
Leslie also put an ask out on her Facebook page to see if her friends and family could send Logan a Christmas card because he’d always loved receiving those. She had no idea what that simple request would turn into.
“He received at least 5,000 cards,” Leslie said. “We still have every single thing that was sent to him from as far away as England, Germany and Malaysia. I would say that many, many people did all they could to make his Christmas memorable that year.”
Another holiday tradition for the Boylen family that took on new meaning after Logan’s battle with cancer is the Holiday Tree Festival. Leslie moved to Ohio with her family in 1985 and went to the event every year after that. She then continued that tradition when she started her own family and Logan grew up attending the Holiday Tree Festival each year.
“I would never ever have believed that someday that event would mean more to me than just being beautiful,” Leslie said. “Our favorite part was always the beauty of it and how it got us in the holiday spirit. Now we truly appreciate the sheer generosity of people, their selflessness and how much it helps this amazing hospital.”
Leslie even suggested to the Teens Against Cancer group from Barberton High School, where Logan is now in his junior year, that they decorate and donate a tree for the Holiday Tree Festival. This will be the group’s third year doing so.
“Logan is doing great at the moment. We’ve learned to take everything day by day, so I always say he is doing great right now because I know things could always change at any given time,” Leslie said. “And as far as the Holiday Tree Festival is concerned, I don’t think we will ever miss one in the future.”
You can visit the 37th annual Holiday Tree Festival and see the hundreds of trees, wreaths and holiday gifts decorated for the season from Nov. 17-25 at the John S. Knight Center. This event is presented by the Volunteers of Akron Children’s Hospital and is free to attend. For more information and for the event’s hours, visit akronchildrens.org/treefestival.