Students gather at Discovery Middle School for a 'Sad Christmas' party

Discovery Middle School held Christmas for a classmate diagnosed with cancer.

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Students gather at Discovery Middle School for a "Sad Christmas" party.
Ryan Longnecker / WDAY News
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FARGO — As spring finally signaled a feel-good start to summer, Discovery Middle school turned the tables on the seasons. It was Christmas at the school Tuesday, May 24.

All day, teachers blinked with holiday lights. Others dressed like candy canes and reindeer. All for a classmate and friend, Marie Hanson, a sixth grader at the school.

Marie was recently diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma.

"This started in December with it just being leg pain," Marie said.

She is now undergoing chemotherapy. For the last few weeks, her family has been flooded with food and gifts.


"I said, 'Oh gosh, this is so wonderful, it's the warm feelings of Christmas,' and Marie said, 'Yeah, it's like Christmas, but sad.' And so we jokingly started calling it Sad Christmas," Erika Hanson, Marie's mom, said.

So, Discovery to have a Sad Christmas celebration during this last week of the school year.

"You always wonder what would it be like to hear The Chipmunks singing Christmas music in the middle of summer, and I can tell you, it is exactly as disturbing as you think it would be," Chris Hanson, Marie's dad, said.

Pictures, music, and even Christmas cookies were at the party.

"For teachers to be hauling in stuff all week — Christmas trees, wrapping paper — planning all this. The support has been amazing," Erika Hanson said. "One of the girls says her mom and grandma made cookies all day Sunday."

All holiday cliches aside, Marie and her family know some tough weeks lay ahead this summer. So, this incredible show of support as school ends means everything.

"Going through it, I don't want to be sad about it all the time, that's just boring," Marie said. "I want to still live my life as much as I can."

"She is amazing. A great student, she's a great friend. You wish you could clone her and have a bunch in a classroom," said Discovery teacher Kristi Hallock.


For this family, the journey has meant watching a 12-year-old take on a battle and look nowhere but forward.

The decorations and lights will be boxed up for months, but for a few hours, it felt like Christmas and, with the holiday, some great perspective on what matters.

"It's a yucky way to get a bunch of attention, but the attention feels good," Erika Hanson said.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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