Traveling a rough road: Online group to build custom Jeep for boy who survived brain tumor

Traveling a rough road: Online group to build custom Jeep for boy who survived brain tumor

It's been a long road for Landon. But with the help of the Jeep community, he is coming close to achieving one of his dreams.

Landon is a Jeep-crazy 9-year-old boy who was diagnosed with a brainstem glioma, a tumor on his cerebellum, pons, medulla and third and fourth ventricle of his brainstem. Thousands of people have pitched in to help in the quest to build a Jeep especially for the South Carolina boy, who is making the trek to Toledo, the home of Jeep, for Jeep Fest celebrations.

"We were shocked and everything was a whirlwind of emotions," Landon's mom, Alana Derrick, said of learning the diagnosis.

The family was told that surgery was their only option.

"I thought about life and death so much at that point and what I wanted for my son. He was just in kindergarten," Alana said.

On May 26, 2015, Landon underwent his first craniotomy, a 12-hour procedure.

Already tired and scared, the family was told that the bulk of the tumor was unable to be removed.

Landon had to have yet another craniotomy just a few days later.

"The first 45 days were some of the hardest as we watched our son fight for his life," Alana said.

After the surgery, Landon spent 45 days in pediatric intensive care and another 45 days in a rehabilitation hospital in another state.

During this time, he developed infections, and was unable to walk, talk, or swallow and was left paralyzed on his left side.

He went through rehabilitation, but was still sent home in a wheelchair, requiring 24/7 care.

Three years later, Landon has had multiple surgeries, missed weeks of school, suffered partial blindness in his left eye, hearing loss, and plethora of other medical conditions.

However, none of these hardships were able to crush his spirit.

Landon loves Star Wars, Legos, and Jeeps, three things that those close to him have surrounded him with.

Trying to find him some comfort, a good friend of the family reached out to toy collectors, looking for Star Wars items for Landon.

During the search, it was discovered that one of these collectors happened to have something else that Landon loved: a Jeep.

When he was told of Landon's love for the vehicle, he sprang into action.

The collector started a Jeep page for Landon on Facebook and it quickly grew from 47 members to 200, and now has over 15,000 people involved nationwide.

Just in July, members of the page were able to host a "Jeep Jamboree" for him.

Over 600 Jeeps came, and the family raised money for a nonprofit that agreed to front the cost of the event.

Landon and his family ended up raising over $20,000.

The excitement only continued to grow. People wanted to do anything they could to help.

This is when "Project Landon" was born.

Tony Wilkie, with "Off R Rockers" Jeep club, decided to rally people together to build Landon his very own Jeep.

The group made a post that said:

"Yes we know he's only 9 years old, but the time that he has left with us is unknown. Everyday is a blessing with Landon."

The group hopes to have "Project Landon" completed before the end of the year, and they are asking for donations.

With the help of Merikans Brand Apparel, they have found sponsors and are about $12,000 away from their goal.

"They wanted Landon to have this Jeep because we do not know what the future holds for him, as his life expectancy is shortened," Alana said.

The family lives in South Carolina, but has traveled all the way to Northwest Ohio to celebrate Landon's love of Jeeps during Jeep Week.

While their situation may be tough, the family is doing what they can to focus on the positives.

Alana posted on Facebook:

"If you look at life, things are always going to get you down. It is part of life, part of how we were made to live this life... tragedies and heartbreaks. But there is also beauty if you take time to look around. I have seen and learned so much about beauty through his eyes."

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