Some of the blue signs showing support for Great Bend Police Chief Cliff Couch are finding a new purpose — to welcome home 13-year-old Dade Cannon and to encourage him as he continues his battle with cancer.
Dade returned to Great Bend this week after being at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, for the past six weeks for his latest treatment. Several Barton County residents have welcomed him with messages on store windows or with homemade signs.
Dade’s mother, Christy Huslig, said he spent the last part of their trip home reading all of the signs and posts on his Facebook page, “Prayers for Dade Cannon.”
Although Dade is not in remission, the clinical trials he underwent had a positive effect, Huslig said. “The disease has reduced significantly.”
For now, Dade is happy to be home. He must be in remission for what could be the next step, a bone marrow transplant. They already have a donor, but Huslig encourages people to support the National Marrow Donor Program (BeTheMatch.org) for a chance to help other children.
“He still has a long way to go,” Huslig said. “My son’s been fighting cancer for almost nine years.” But, as the signs reminded them, the community has not wavered in its support.
Earlier this summer, Great Bend residents placed blue signs in their yards to show their support for Chief Couch after he was suspended by the Great Bend City Council on a split vote. After the council reversed its decision, Couch expressed thanks for the outpouring of support but said it was time to move on. He announced his resignation effective Oct. 15.
Many of those blue signs are still visible around town, but some have been replaced with messages like “prayers for Dade” or other words of encouragement. One sign quotes Dade Cannon himself telling cancer, “It will be the best day ever when I beat you ... again.”
Family friend Tara Brown said the signs were intended to lift Dade’s spirits and to share the community’s goodwill.
“We found out in the same week that Chief Couch resigned that Dade was coming home,” Brown said. It was Lindsey Ensley who came up with the idea of repurposing the blue signs. On Sept. 14, Ensley posted on Facebook, “If anyone is wanting to get rid of their chief couch signs I’ll take them,” giving her address. “I want to paint them orange for Dade Cannon. #5xwarrior #noonefightsalone.” Soon people were re-posting her message and offering to help her paint.
“We thought it would be kind of a cool thing to do and to keep things positive and let everybody know we’re behind Dade,” Brown said.
The battle continues
Dade was first diagnosed with leukemia when he was 5 years old.
Deb Reif at the Kans for Kids Fighting Cancer Foundation said her nonprofit organization has been working with the family since Dade was diagnosed in 2009, “longer than any of the other 30 kids we’ve assisted.” He has relapsed four times.
“He is an amazing young man and wants to continue his fight so that it might help other kids in the future. Like most all of the kids, he’s an old soul. He has a heart of gold and is ready to help other kids that have cancer. He’s one of the Kans for Kids Ambassadors. He certainly has a big piece of our hearts and we love him like our own.
“Kans for Kids will continue to help Dade as long as he is being treated for cancer,” Reif said. “We would also like to remind everyone that the Dade Cannon Fund was established at First Kansas Back back in 2009. It is still open and receiving donations at any of the First Kansas locations. We look forward to being able to give him scholarships when he finishes high school.”