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Birthday bash raises money, awareness to find treatment for Willow Cannan

The community came out for a birthday bash for Willow, an Ocean Springs girl battling a rare...
The community came out for a birthday bash for Willow, an Ocean Springs girl battling a rare genetic disorder.(Photo Source: WLOX)
Updated: Oct. 6, 2018 at 3:00 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - There was reason to party at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center Saturday.

Friends and family came out to celebrate the 5th birthday of Willow Cannan, an Ocean Springs girl battling a rare genetic disease.

“We don’t know how many birthdays she’s going to have left. So we try to celebrate the moments in between and certainly the birthdays,” said Amber Olsen, Willow’s mom.

Willow has a rare disease called Multiple Sulfatase Deficiency, which is rapidly breaking down her body function. As of right now, there’s no cure for MSD, but Willow continues to defy all the odds.

“When our neurologist first told us, he said it might be five years, so she made it to five, he said the other day, and we’re so blessed to have her," said Olsen.

So Saturday, people donned the party hats to celebrate Willow’s milestone birthday and to raise money and awareness so she, and others like her, can look forward to celebrating many more birthdays.

“The doctors are making a medicine, and the people are trying to help other people, like other people with MSD, and Willow, and I am too," said Willow’s best friend Emma Arminio.

All proceeds from the bash go to the Cure MSD organization. Olsen said they’ve raised more than half of their $3 million goal, but it’s a race against the clock.

“We can cure this disease and help her and all the other kids who have the condition, but time is not on our side," she said.

What is on their side is support from friends and strangers, even Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College biology students who volunteered to help make the bash a success.

“Willow’s disease is curable. It just needs funding, and so they’re being a part of that, and it means everything to me to have students like that," said Lynn Zimmerman, MGCCC biology instructor.

The cause has also gained the support of Mississippi first lady Deborah Bryant.

“This is what we’re passionate about, taking care of our children here in Mississippi, and Willow is just so beautiful," she said.

For more information on the Cure MSD foundation, visit the website.

Copyright 2018 WLOX. All rights reserved.