Home for the holidays has a significant meaning for one boy in Southington.
The 11-year-old has been undergoing treatment for a brain tumor for most of the year. On Christmas Eve, Ben Marek got his homecoming, and a huge welcome from the community.
Marek was greeted with signs, balloons, cheers, and celebration. Many of the homes on the street put red bulbs on their porch lights, Ben’s favorite color.
More than 800 people, 120 cars, police officers, firefighters, and city leaders lined the streets for his return. He drove up to the cheering crowd with his dad, in a flashy red sports car.
“I don’t even know!” Marek said, marveling at the crowd. “This town was small, it doesn’t look like it anymore!”
It is the first time he will sleep in his own bed since February, after moving from one hospital to another to treat a tumor at the base of his brain.
“I don’t think any parent wants to watch their child go through this,” Stacy Marek, Ben’s mother, said. “But he’s strong. He survived the un-survivable. Overcame things they said he wouldn’t, and here we are.”
Marek was greatly missed by many, including his 14-year-old twin brothers.
“The first hospital he’s at in Boston, he got like a really bad view of just like an air conditioner. And then he finally moved to a different hospital room where he had a pretty good view of the city. And every time that I told him he had a good view, he said the better view is from home,” his brother Brian Marek said. “So I can't believe how happy he must be to come home finally.”
On Christmas Eve, Marek will spend time alongside his parents, brothers, and grandparents.
“He’s gone through such an ordeal, so I’m so happy, we’re so happy over here,” Debbie Marek, his grandmother, said. “I just want to give him a big hug!”
Marek’s principal and teachers were also at the welcoming event Friday afternoon.
“He is an amazing child,” Gina Dinello, Marek’s fifth grade teacher said. “I feel cheated because I've been waiting to have Ben in my classroom since he was in first grade.”
He also received a long hug from his best friend.
“I’m speechless. I just can’t believe he’s been in the hospital for one year and now he’s back home,” Mason Indomenico said. “I hope his health just gets above the roof. I hope he gets 110. I really hope it gets a lot better, I hope he gets out of his wheelchair and he can walk on his own.”
After 30 rounds of radiation treatment, it is unlikely that Marek’s tumor will grow back. In the future he will require check-ups and physical therapy.
Christmas Eve marks the first time the Marek family will all be together at home since the diagnosis.
“It’s surreal right now,” Brian Marek, his father said.
With Marek on life support just back in April, for the Marek family, spending Christmas together is a miracle.
“Relief, relief, a lot of relief. To have all my boys under the same roof,” Stacy Marek said. “It was important for Benjamin because I feel like coming home today was a bit surreal for him, and I don't think it became real for him until he would turn the corner and everybody was just there for him. Amazing what everybody's done.”
Marek is even getting a special honor in his hometown. Members of the city council proclaimed Dec. 25 “Ben Marek Day.”