Special Santa Parade just for young Gabby

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Gabby Stephens was not well enough to make it to the Nelson Santa Parade, so instead the parade was brought to her.

Gabby, 10, has an extremely rare genetic disorder called dyskeratosis congenita and aplastic anaemia which leaves sufferers vulnerable to disorders that impair bone marrow function and at high risk of developing various cancers.

It is estimated that she is one of five people to have been diagnosed with the life-threatening condition in New Zealand.

It meant that she was too unwell to attend the Santa Parade two weekends ago. So, instead, a special Santa parade took place on Sanctuary Drive, Stoke.

It meant that Gabby, her family and community could watch the parade and celebrate together from their doorsteps.

Parade organiser Murry Leaning was heartbroken to hear Gabby couldn’t make it to the Nelson Santa Parade earlier this month due to health complications.

“The reason we put the Santa Parade together was so that kids wouldn’t miss out. We realised the kid that needs it most was Gabby,” he says.

Murray was the driving force behind one of Nelson’s largest Santa parades, on December 13 after the Nelson City Council cancelled the event.

Within a week, Murray, the Santa Parade Trust and the Hits Nelson were able to put together a smaller-scale parade.

It was led by Stoke’s Celtic Pipe Band with muscle cars, Irish dancing, clowns, mermaids, firetrucks, police and Santa himself in tow for Gabby and her neighbours, who turned out in droves.

Gabby was smiling from ear to ear the whole parade which lasted about 40 minutes, graciously waving and thanking floats as they passed by her front yard surrounded by her friends and family.

“It was very cool, my favourite part was the mermaids,” says Gabby, who wanted to thank everyone for coming.

Gabby’s mum Megan says she was “blown away” by the day and the support of the community.

“Today’s been way bigger than I ever expected, everyone has been so good to us.”