BELTON, Mo. -- “Everybody’s busy. Everybody wants to put their head down and plod along," Jason McDaniel said in August.
That's when FOX4 first highlighted McDaniel's efforts to promote a neighborhood watch and community Facebook page in Belton. But few people realized how busy McDaniel and his family were behind the scenes with their own struggles.
“All the sudden, this cancer hits, and they had to go through these treatments because it’s an extremely aggressive form of cancer," Angela Kraft said.
Their son Conner, who turned 20 on Friday, is battling adenoid cystic carcinoma, a cancer that affects only 1 in 2 million people. It requires regular trips to MD Anderson’s Cancer Center in Houston.
“Just to go through that every three months is so trying," Conner's mom Renee McDaniel said.
The Belton Ray-Pec Crime Watch group started raising money for the family on Facebook just last week. On Friday, they loaded up Santa’s sack full of toys and about $1,000 in cash to take to take to the McDaniel family’s home for a surprise.
“We understand the financial hardships of fighting cancer, and we wanted you to have a very Merry Christmas,"Kraft said.
Twelve-year-old Nolan, who has autism, got to meet Santa, too.
“Will you be my helper and put them underneath the tree for me?" Santa asked, handing him gifts.
For the McDaniels, it was an unforgettable surprise.
“This is the first year that he’s been 'Santa, Santa, Santa!' I never thought I’d get to experience that with him. For him to meet Santa like this, that’s something that I’ll never forget," Renee McDaniel said.
Neighbors helping neighbors, just the kind of thing the McDaniels hoped when they started the group, not knowing they'd be on the receiving end of some community help.
“This is the last thing I expected to walk into especially a year after my life was completely changed. It’s amazing," Conner said.