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Boy gets wish of being Santa's helper before he goes blind

Elijah Runnels 12519
Posted at 4:33 PM, Dec 05, 2019

KENTWOOD, Mich. — A little boy with a degenerative eye disease has checked an item off his bucket list of things to do before he goes blind.

Elijah Runnels, 8, was born with retinitis pigmentosa. His doctors don't know when, but he will eventually lose his eyesight.

"When I take off my glasses, everything becomes blurry and you cannot see anything to the right or left," Runnels said.

Runnels' favorite holiday is Christmas, so when staff at the Kentwood Parks and Recreation Department offered him to be Santa's helper at their annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, Runnels said yes.

“We tried to kind of sweeten the deal for Elijah," program coordinator Katelyn Bush said. "What else could we do to make this even more special than just ride in the parade? And we thought he should light the tree, which is the ultimate honor at tree lighting.”

Elijah's mom said the offer came at a time when her son needed something to smile about. His grandfather, who was his role model, passed away in August.

"So when Santa called and said, ‘Let’s do this,’ it really helped," she said.

The tree lighting will be at the Kentwood District Library on Thursday night at 6 p.m.