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Declan receives dream superhero room makeover

Declan Callahan surrounded by superheroes in his new room.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021 - On Monday, December 20, a local six-year-old, Declan (Hayes) Callahan, received an unexpected surprise from a group called "The Mack Impact".

Declan, who spends most of his days dressed as his favorite Marvel character, always dreamed of having a superhero bedroom, and last week his dream became a reality thanks to The Mack Impact group.

Declan, parents Michael and Abby, sister Ellie and volunteers that helped make his dream room possible including Asher, Erin and Chris Coats, and room designers Candice Mueggenborg and Brady Ramey.

Mack Impact is a nonprofit agency in Oklahoma that provides special experiences and gifts for Oklahoma children who are battling cancer or its aftermath. The group traveled from Yukon, Oklahoma to Callahan’s residence in Sallisaw after the family was referred to the organization and submitted their application.

In April 2019, Declan was diagnosed with Stage 4 high-risk medulloblastoma. According to St. Jude Research Hospital, "Medulloblastoma is a brain tumor of the cerebellum, a fast-growing tumor that can spread to other areas of the brain and spinal cord."

Following his diagnosis, Declan underwent an eight-hour brain surgery at The Children’s Hospital at Saint Francis in Tulsa to remove the tumor. The family then waited for Declan’s health to improve so he could be transferred to St. Jude Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

The family has faced many ups and downs over the past two years. Additional brain and spinal tumors were discovered while the family was adjusting to their new "home away from home" in Memphis. Declan’s journey continued from that point with many surgeries, numerous rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, a stroke, grade four hearing loss and paralysis on his left-side. Recently, Declan lost the ability to use his left eye, which doctors say is likely due to nerve damage caused by a tumor.

Niki Asher, a member of The Mack Impact, said, "After talking with Abby Callahan, Declan’s mother, and learning the details of Declan’s story, it was clear that they had been through a lot and were very deserving." That’s when volunteers gathered everything they needed, packed up their vehicles, and made the three-hour trip to bring his dream to life. "The family is in the process of trying to rebuild their lives after cancer, so we are glad we could be a small part of that," Asher added.

"Declan was released from the hospital in February 2020, but after giving up our home while in treatment in order to save money, we came back and rented a house," Abby Callahan, Declan's mom, said. The family has slowly started to rebuild their lives as well as their dream home and will soon be completely moved in. The family continues to travel to St. Jude for a week at a time every three months so Declan can be checked for cancer and tumors.

"Declan is not considered cancer free for five years due to his type of cancer, but there is no evidence of disease at this time," Abby added. Declan continues to attend weekly therapy sessions and fights to live a normal life despite all the odds that were against him. "We love bringing awareness to childhood cancer and always appreciate it when it’s put out there because it changes lives forever and never truly ends. It's been so wonderful getting to build our home and seeing Declan get the space he deserves," Abby said.

"Rebuilding life after cancer has been a beautiful struggle. Our fight is far from over, but we are grateful and truly blessed," Abby added.

Declan’s family created a Facebook page when Declan was first diagnosed, called "Team Declan." The Facebook page allows others to follow Declan’s journey and to assist in creating awareness of childhood cancer.

The Mack Impact would like to thank everyone who purchased items for the room. ” We couldn’t have done this without all of you," Asher said.

Lindsie Dyer, Staff Writer

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