Local family hosts toy drive, party to honor son’s memory
By DAVID J. HARDIN
On Sunday afternoon, MAKS Family Fun and Entertainment Center had a gathering for a young boy’s birthday and in his memory.
The family of Connor Hedge, who passed away one year ago after battling neuroblastoma, days away from what would have been his sixth birthday, hosted a party to celebrate their son’s 7th birthday and also to collect toys and funds for a good cause.
Robert and Kristen Hedge, Connor’s parents, provided the pizza and drinks, with MAKS donating the party room and a superhero birthday cake being provided by Bits ‘N Bites Cake Shop. Even Spider-Man was on hand for pictures with the children.
Kristen Hedge admits the week had been tough for them, but she didn’t want to let his birthday go by without doing something that would make a difference.
“We asked everyone who came to donate a toy, which we will take to the children who are going through treatments at Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin,” Kristen said. “We will also take any monetary donations that we receive to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, where that money will help kids build a bear.
“Connor loved MAKS. In May of 2016, they threw him an early birthday party because the doctors had diagnosed him as terminal. The motto or goal we had with Connor was to find the fun. Even when he was going through treatment, we found fun things to do, and that is why we chose MAKS to have his party, because he had a lot of fun coming here.”
Approximately 50 people attended the celebration, and everyone had fun, which is something Connor loved to do, said Robert Hedge.
“Connor loved having fun, he loved video games, and he loved them even more since he started coming to MAKS. He also loved driving the go-carts, Connor was a fun-loving kid,” Robert said.
Larea Gamble is the principal of House Creek Elementary, where Connor attended.
“Connor brought our school together, and helped us all make a commitment to each other, so that we could be a one big family,” Gamble said. “We are so happy that the family is still with us. Lily, Connor’s younger sister, will be coming to kindergarten in August. The Hedge family has made an impact on all of us.”
Last July, the school was the site for his sixth birthday party, which the family held in lieu of a memorial service. During his time at the school, the campus’ motto became #connorstrong, and the school held a rally for him in February 2016 before he went for more treatments at Cook Children’s Hospital in Ft. Worth.
Former classmates came on Sunday to remember Connor.
“My son Bo went to school with Connor for a while, and we were fortunate to get to know Connor and his family,” said Courtney Escobar. “We attended his party last May when we realized that he wasn’t going to be healthy enough to attend his birthday party in July.
“It is amazing that he teaches you to live every moment to the fullest, and to not take anything for granted. It is amazing all that he continues to do, and he will never understand the impact that he has had on so many other people in this community and around the world. His story has been shared on his Facebook page worldwide. He always had a huge smile.”
Ann Carlos, who lives on Fort Hood, didn’t know the family and learned about the event several weeks ago.
“I follow a lot of cancer patients, and my godmother passed away from the disease five years ago. I did not know about this until a few weeks ago. I saw it pop up on my newsfeed on Face book, and thought that it would be an honor to celebrate with the family,” said Carlos. “Even though we do not live in Cove, and it is pretty awkward being here because we don’t know anybody and we live on Fort Hood, we wanted to support the family.”