CHICAGO - It was a touching day in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood where Anthony Pappalas, 7, lived with his family. One year ago, he died from a rare form of brain cancer. Thursday, dozens of people gathered to remember Anthony, release balloons, and dedicate a neighborhood block in his name - Anthony J. Pappalas Avenue.
Anthony's mother, Katie Gaskin, stood on corner of 108th and Trumbull Avenue, thanking everyone who came to remember her son, including the alderman, police officers, firefighters, community members and, most importantly, her own family. All of them were there to remember Anthony.
"It's difficult, but to us we're very proud of Anthony and the legacy he left behind," said Katie Gaskin. "He never once ever gave up - he was always smiling and laughing and caring about others and telling them not to worry, that everything was going to be okay."
"So, that's what I take from him," she added. "Every day I live my life trying to have a little bit of Anthony in me and see the good side of things."
On this day, one year after Anthony's death, his neighborhood block was decorated with orange and gray ribbons. Orange was his favorite color. Gray is to raise awareness about brain cancer. Anthony had diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma known as DIPG.
"This is the worst form of brain cancer. There is no cure," said Gaskin, who learned about Anthony's diagnosis on her birthday, July 23, 2015.
Anthony lived 19 months after being diagnosed. On Thursday, neighborhood children released a balloon with the letter "A" and several orange balloons into the air. Anthony's brother ripped off the paper to unveil the new street sign, too.
"We're hoping his name lives on and his memory will live on forever....that no one will forget him," Gaskin said.
There's now a foundation, too, called Anthony's Avengers. It's the Chicago chapter of the Defeat DIPG Network. Gaskin's family rallied around her and her two sons during Anthony's fight, and now they are facing a new challenge to raise awareness and money to pay for DIPG research.
"I think it galvanized us, brought us closer together than we were already - now we have a different purpose," said Mike Gaskin, Anthony's uncle. "That's fighting this terrible disease."
Katie Gaskin is ready to do just that in her son's memory- fight- through Anthony's Avengers.
"We are full force, we are hoping for it to be a success and all this money will go toward raising money and one day finding a cure for this awful disease that has taken way too many lives."
Anthony's Avengers will hold their first fundraiser on April 13 to raise money for DIPG brain cancer research.
Defeat DIPG Research for the Stars Fundraiser
Friday, April 13th at 7 p.m.
Chicago Gaelic Park in Oak Forest
Fundraiser tickets are available HERE.
For information on Anthony's Avengers visit THIS LINK.