By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
Leading up to his fourth birthday, childhood cancer survivor Whitaker Weinburger told his parents he wanted “millions of people and millions of Bumblebees.” On Wednesday morning, his parents made that dream come true.
At 7 a.m., yellow cars, taxis, moving trucks and school buses lined the streets surrounding the Weinburgers’ house so that Whitaker could see “millions of Bumblebees” – his favorite character from the Transformers movies – on his walk to school. Whitaker is a preschooler at Charles Barrett Elementary School.
Whitaker’s mom, Erin Weinburger, said the surprise was inspired by a neighbor who owned a yellow car.
“There’s a car that parks in the back alley in our neighborhood, and it’s a yellow Mustang,” Erin said. “[Whitaker] always wants us to drive that way. He always says, ‘Will you go the Bumblebee way?’ Even if we need to go the other way, so we’ll just go the wrong way so that he can see Bumblebee.”
With Whitaker’s birthday approaching, Erin and her husband decided to put out a call for anyone with yellow cars to park on their street so that Whitaker could walk past a whole street of Bumblebees on the morning of his birthday. Things escalated quickly.
Facebook groups of Alexandria mothers spread the word to their neighbors, local broadcast news stations blasted the call to viewers, Alexandria City Public Schools commissioned a school bus to attend and the sheriff’s office rallied its forces to provide crowd and traffic control.
The morning of Whitaker’s birthday, enough yellow cars showed up to fill multiple streets, and Whitaker was joined by a crowd of neighbors, classmates, newscasters, police officers and even a few Transformers in costume on his walk to school.
Whitaker was diagnosed with stage four high risk neuroblastoma at 13 months old. After a trying period where Whitaker spent countless nights at the hospital, underwent at least 60 blood transfusions and had two stem cell transplants, he’s been out of the hospital for more than a year.
“We have a brilliant medical team and we’ve been really lucky. His scans look really good,” Erin said. “He’s doing wonderful. He’s been home with us and out of the hospital for over a year now. He started preschool last week, five days a week. So yeah, it’s going very well.”
Erin said that with all the media attention Whitaker’s surprise has gotten, she’s glad she’d been able to share his story, especially with September being Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
In addition, with a national blood shortage taking place, Erin said she hopes that Whitaker’s story inspires those who can to donate blood.
“[Whitaker’s] had 60 transfusions, and that’s 60 people [who] have saved his life,” Erin said. “This is the product of what happens when you donate blood because he just wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that. That’s something only humans can do for one another and it’s really important. So, if you can, give blood.”
To learn more about donating blood, visit www.inovablood.org or www.redcrossblood.org.