Korey Latham, 3, was diagnosed in June 2011 with stage IV neuroblastoma. He suffered a relapse in August of this year, and passed away on Nov. 13.
The weekend before, he was visited by Santa Claus, brought by his uncle’s co-workers at Carroll EMC.
Jeremy McKinney, a lineman for the company, told the office’s benevolence committee about his nephew, who was supported in his fight against the cancer by many friends and family in Newnan and Meriwether County.
Korey received his first diagnosis when he was only 22 months old, and the boy’s condition forced his parents to abandon their jobs, causing them to be financially strapped.
“When we heard about Jeremy’s nephew, and heard that he probably wasn’t going to make it to Christmas, we knew we had to do something,” said Kelly Hester, communications specialist for Carroll EMC.
Hester said many employees donated toys, cards and money to take to the boy, while Santa donated his time.
“We had several lineman go over with Santa and the gifts,” Hester said. “And they told us that he perked up when he saw the presents.”
Jay Gill, communications manager for the company, described the “sad, sad story,” saying it showed how close-knit the employees of the company are.
“This didn’t come out of company funds,” he said. “This was all donated. And it’s just a terrible story, but the last picture they have of the boy is of him sleeping, holding a Carroll EMC diecast truck. Very sad.”
Neuroblastoma, the cancer affecting Korey, is the most common solid cancer in childhood, with an annual incidence of about 650 cases per year in the U.S. Nearly half of neuroblastoma cases occur in children younger than two years, like Korey when he was first diagnosed. It is a neuroendocrine tumor, originating most frequently in one of the adrenal glands.
Korey, born in August 2009, had a tumor discovered in June 2011 in his stomach. He was flown to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where he was diagnosed. Because of the tumor surrounding his adrenal glands, doctors were unable to save one of his kidneys.
The boy, after going through several rounds of chemotherapy, received a stem cell transplant in December 2011. He was in the hospital for Christmas that year.
Korey’s aunt, Roopville resident Teresa McKinney, said her nephew couldn’t leave the house in his final weeks.
“He can’t eat, he can’t drink, he has no strength,” McKinney said. “So for them to come in and do that for him, it made a world of difference.”
McKinney said all of the gifts were appreciated, to be sure, but what was more appreciated was the time given.
“They had to drive down to Manchester, which is a pretty far,” McKinney said. “It was just great to see him smile and see him open some presents for the last time. It really felt good.”
Carroll EMC’s benevolence committee frequently engages in charitable acts of kindness, Hester said.
“We wanted to make sure he had a great, last Christmas,” she said. “We’re like a family around here, and we felt touched by his story.”
More than 5,000 people like the Facebook page set up for Korey, “Cause for Korey.”