OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - All along the Coast, graduating seniors are paying homage to their educational journeys by walking through the halls of where it all began. It's a time-honored tradition that recognizes their accomplishments while inspiring the young ones who look up to them.
On Wednesday, Haley Sliker of Ocean Springs High School brought four-year-old Willow Cannan along to join her special moment. Rocking her cap and gown, she pushed Willow down the hallway of Oak Park Elementary in a pink stroller. Willow was dressed for the occasion as she wore her own blue graduation attire.
Willow is diagnosed with Multiple Sulfatase Deficiency (MSD), a genetic disease which is terminal and leaves her with a life expectancy of no more than 10 years. Haley said she wanted to make sure that Willow got a chance to feel the excitement of the day.
"I felt it was important to take Willow on my graduation walk through Oak Park to allow her to experience as many wonderful opportunities as she can. I hope and pray that Willow will be able to see her own graduation one day, but it is still important to treasure these special moments now," said Liker.
Willow's parents, Tom Cannan and Amber Olsen, actively push for the production of a gene-therapy for MSD through the only foundation the disease in the United States. In its early stages of development at the University of Texas Southwestern, this treatment option will be the first and only one for children suffering from MSD.
"Time is not on Willow's side, but we are so grateful to Haley for sharing this graduation experience with her. As the kids yelled 'Willow' down the hall as she rode by, I smiled at the love she has experienced. She loves kids and people so to be with the graduates and her classmates was so special for both her and us." Amber Olsen recalled.
Liker plans to attend Loyola University in New Orleans this fall, with a major in musical theatre, and a minor in either business or mass communications.