OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - The holiday season is a time for giving and wonder, and sometimes the smallest gifts mean the most. Today, a coast man dressed as Santa Claus gave a family something they will never forget.
Four-year-old Willow Cannan suffers from a deadly genetic disease called Multiple Sulfatase Deficiency. Her parents, Amber Olsen and Tom Cannan, have watched their youngest daughter's health deteriorate since she was diagnosed two years ago.
But today, Willow created a special memory with Eddie McDaniel. With a white beard and elaborate suit, McDaniel has the Santa act down pat.
McDaniel showed up for picture day at Willow's school, Oak Park Elementary in Ocean Springs, decked out in his Santa gear.
After the pictures were finished, McDaniel stuck around to spend some quality time with Willow. The heartfelt encounter was caught on video.
"When I started singing, I sung 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,' and she didn't seem to respond. Then I started singing 'Jingle Bells' and she started smiling," McDaniel said. "Then I started ringing the bells on my suit, and she really started smiling."
The joy on Willow's face is clear for all to see. Olsen said her daughter loves music and for people to sing to her. That always perks Willow up.
"Music and singing, she just loves it," Olsen said.
McDaniel said he was happy to bring Willow and her family so much joy, but holding her also hit close to home.
"I have a 3-year-old granddaughter who I absolutely adore," said McDaniel. "When I started singing, I started thinking of my granddaughter, and it really hit home. It was a unique experience for me to do that for her."
Olsen said although Willow can no longer run and play, she still loves life, and memories like this are something her family will hold onto forever.
"It's such a great moment to capture. We're forever going to have that moment. As we lose more and more of her, we forget where she was. It's great to have those videos," Olsen said through tears.
According to Olsen, there is no treatment for MSD, but they aren't giving up the fight. She said they have been in touch with doctors and scientists in Europe in hopes they can develop a treatment that will not only help Willow, but every child who suffers from MSD.
To learn more about Willow's rare condition and donate to help find a cure for MSD, please visit unitedmsdfoundation.com.