6-year-old cancer survivor becomes honorary firefighter

WILMINGTON, Delaware (WPVI) -- "Elliott has spent most of his life not in school, or not with friends, not in daycare because of the cancer diagnosis," said Grace Slocum.

Her first born son was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic lymphoma following an incapacitating leg pain.

"50 years ago, this cancer would have been a death sentence," said Grace. "So, we were very fortunate that he has, or had, a cancer that is very treatable."

6-year-old Elliott rarely complained during his battle with the disease. And despite the initial bad news, his family now has much to look forward to. The first grader started attending school in-person for the very first time this fall. And most recently, he completed his final round of chemotherapy.

Teachers at his elementary school quickly learned to love Elliott for his willingness to make friends and show compassion for others. One second-grade teacher, Erin McCullin, befriended the boy by simply crossing paths in the hallway.

"I heard that he likes firefighters, and I was like, wait, I know a firefighter very well: my brother," she said. "And we said, 'What can we do for this kiddo?'"

McCullin coordinated with her fellow staff at Olive B. Loss Elementary School and the Wilmington Fire Department to give Elliott the best day of his life. He arrived at Fire Station #6 today expecting to meet a firefighter. But he was surprised with much more.

"He's going to get a warm welcome. We'll get him up in the engine, take him a ride around the block. You know, get some pictures with all the firefighters and we even have a couple gifts for him," said Chief of Fire John Looney. "So that way, when he leaves here, he will be a Wilmington firefighter."

Elliott was shocked by the fanfare and show of support. He enjoyed waving to his teachers from the window of a fire truck and ordering firefighters to salute.

For firefighters like Bobby McCullin, Erin's brother, it was the least they could do.

"I think every day you come to work knowing that it could be your last day. But for someone like him, he shouldn't have to worry about stuff like that," said McCullin. "Every one of these guys puts the uniform and the badge on for a reason. And if he wants to do that one day or he loves this, then we'll do anything to make him smile or help him."

Now that the present-day battle has been won, the Slocum family is looking forward to a normal school year for their son. At the same time, they are advocating for more research and funding for pediatric cancer to support families who are still fighting.

"If you hear about someone going through this journey, reach out," said Grace. "It's not all positive for everyone, so support when you can and be there for them."

MEET ANOTHER ELLIOTT: Pa. doctor fighting pancreatic cancer authors book to inspire others in the same fight

EMBED More News Videos

Dr. Elliott Schulman has been practicing medicine for 40 years. Now, he's learning what it's like to be a patient battling cancer.

Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.