RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – This week, a little boy from Clayton will spend his seventh birthday in the hospital but friends and strangers from all over the world are making sure he still has a reason to celebrate. 

The fifth floor of UNC Children’s Hospital has been Ashley Fannin’s second home since she started working as a nurse 15 years ago.  “Kids are so resilient,” she explained. “They just take every day and go with it,” but caring for children with cancer can come with heartbreak. “It never gets any easier no matter how many times you’ve watched a child take their last breath,” Fannin said through tears.   

Despite the pain, she adores her young patients and helping them through their scariest times.  “I’ve had to tell so many kids that they have cancer,” she said.  “I never thought I’d have to tell my own that he was sick.” She had to do just that when doctors diagnosed her son Mason with leukemia.  Now her family is on the 5th floor of UNC Children’s Hospital. 

The diagnosis came at an especially tough time. Mason was looking forward to turning seven on February 28th and having his birthday party the following Saturday. “He actually invited his friends and we had the whole thing set up,” explained Ashley’s husband, Jeremy Fannin. 

Although he’ll spend it in the hospital, his birthday won’t pass unnoticed. A friend of Ashley’s parents started a Facebook page asking for cards for Mason. Now cards and gifts are coming in from all over, not just for Mason, but his little sister and baby brother.  “It’s so overwhelming. It’s a good overwhelming; It’s humbling,” said Jeremy Fannin.  “It’s blowing our minds,” added a grateful Ashley.  “We never expected it to turn into what it has.”

Along with friends, strangers, and hospital coworkers, the families Ashley cared for on the fifth floor are now taking care of her family.  

“A lot of her patients are circling back around. They’re giving the cards, the packages to Mason, the well wishes, the prayers,” said Jeremy Fannin.  “It’s  pretty awesome.” 

Mason is expected to be in the hospital several more weeks. You can send him a card at: 

Mason Fannin

PO Box 88

Clayton, NC 27528

You can follow his journey here.