When Delaney Krings turns five this month, her family and even strangers are going all out to give her a birthday people will always remember.
A birthday parade, complete with around 150 vintage and classic car drivers, is scheduled for Delaney’s birthday on Dec. 16 near her home in Pewaukee, Wisconsin.
The police department and rescue squad are working on making an appearance. Because Delaney just loves “Frozen,” there will be a lot of the movie’s characters sprinkled in the parade and local theater groups have volunteered to act out a scene.
There will be a custom-designed cake, food and hot chocolate, K-9 dogs and if it’s nice out, kids can play in the nearby park. Santa and Mrs. Claus may even make an appearance.
Cards are pouring in from across the nation and some from internationally, Delaney’s mother Heather Krings said.
But there is no way to sugarcoat why this birthday is so important for Delaney, her family – which includes her father Jack, her mother and an older brother and sister – and the community.
“This will be her final birthday,” her mother confirmed.
On Oct. 24, Delaney was diagnosed as having a large, aggressive brain tumor.
Delaney had an ear infection, something her mother said she had a lot of as a child. Once her ear infection was healing, Delaney kept losing her balance. Her mother knew something was not right.
A week after the brain tumor diagnosis, she went to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa for an appointment. She was greeted by three women of the medical staff, each holding a Kleenex box.
“It’s terminal,” she was told. And to make it worse, she was soon told that she only may have about six weeks to live. “If she lives three more months, it would be a miracle,” her mother said. “It sucks.”
The focus is now on giving her daughter every ounce of love for the remainder of her life. The family’s real estate agent and close friend, Sharon Tomlinson, organized a birthday card drive, encouraging people to send cards, especially ones with her favorite Frozen characters or with Harry Potter, another movie she loves.
Tomlinson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, part of the USA TODAY Network, that 100 cards have been collected so far, and she is hoping for 1,000 by Delaney’s birthday. Krings is expanding this effort by asking people to send photos of different places and sending them to her. They can be of the beach, mountains or Disney World, if they are at one.
“She loves the photos,” her mother said.
A GoFundMe account has been set up with more than $46,000 of the $100,000 goal raised as of Dec. 1.
“I probably know about 10 percent of (the funders),” said Krings. “There are some hefty donations of people we don’t know. It has been absolutely mind-blowing.”
‘The sweetest, little lopsided grin’
Even when she was younger, Krings said Delaney was always the one helping others in need.
When she went to daycare, if a child was down and crying, she was the first one to go up to the child to sit quietly by her and share a toy. “It is just inherent to her,” her mother said. “She has a way of connecting with everyone and capturing their heart.”
“She is sweet, a little bit sassy and kind of witty,” said Krings.
Delaney, her mother said, was always a happy baby, and even now, as she has had five surgeries since her diagnosis, is still charming her doctors.
She is even charming others with something Delaney finds hilarious: “Telling very bad knock-knock jokes,” her mother said.
As a child, her mother always said Delaney had “the biggest, cheekiest grin,” and now, because the left side of her body has tremendously suffered due to her brain tumor, her smile is coined as, “the sweetest, little lopsided grin.”
Her left side of the body is not useful because of the brain tumor. She did get a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World, which she had to cancel, her mother said, due to Delaney’s health.
Delaney is currently in the hospital recovering from an infection, most likely because of her shunt implants. While she is clear of infection, Krings is hoping she is well enough for her birthday party.
“I’m crossing my fingers,” she said.
An angel is what Krings calls Delaney, something she tearfully told her daughter Brooklyn, 12, and her son Carson, 10, when she shared Delaney’s prognosis.
As she documented on Delaney’s CaringBridge site: “Delaney is our sweet angel baby, and sometimes angels aren’t meant to stay with us for the always we want it to be, that they are needed to do their angel work elsewhere.”
These words do not make it much easier, although it is the best way to explain Delaney’s prognosis, Krings said.
“Our goal is to keep her happy and so she knows she is our princess,” she said.
Packing in as many experiences for Delaney as possible
While the Krings family is not sure of the timeline for her symptoms to limit Delaney completely, her family is concentrating on giving her every experience possible.
Her parents are looking into ADA-friendly activities, as Delaney uses a wheelchair. Her parents would like her to see a play, go on a sleigh ride, take a ride to see the Christmas lights, watch movies, sing songs and play with play dough.
The community is helping with this. For instance, when she posted the need to find a fun place for kids that is ADA-compliant, a stranger from the Pewaukee Parents Facebook Group recommended a group and gave her a $100 gift card for the family to enjoy.
“She said, ‘We love you, and we are praying for you,'” said Krings.
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With Christmas quickly approaching after Delaney’s birthday, Krings said her hope is that she is well enough to enjoy and is aware of the holiday celebration. She said her family traditionally wears family-matching pajamas for the holiday, everyone picks one gift to open on Christmas Eve and gathers on their “big, fat couch” to eat popcorn and watch Christmas movies.
“We don’t know if she will have a seizure or a brain bleed or if she will be able to mentally see, hear or understand everything,” she said.
Krings said the goal is to “cram everything in” and to show her nothing but laughter and jokes.
Birthday cards or pictures of places can be sent to Delaney Krings c/o Shorewest Realtors, 1296 Summit Ave., Oconomowoc, WI 53066.
Follow Cathy Kozlowicz on Twitter at @kozlowicz_cathy.