RICHLAND -- Aidan Zaugg was only 7, but he left a huge footprint.
“He is a blessing to us and I think to the community,” said the Richland boy’s father, Mike, in a video tribute to Aidan. “I think there’s a lot of people who are better people because of meeting him.”
Nearly 500 people dressed in red -- Aidan’s favorite color -- packed Richland’s Cathedral of Joy on Saturday to say goodbye to Aidan, who died Nov. 24 after a 2 1/2-year battle with cancer.
Aidan, who was diagnosed in April 2006 with a rare form of brainstem cancer that kills most children within a year, provided hope to thousands of people locally, across the nation and abroad.
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“You all want to make an impact on the world,” said Aidan’s mother, Tanya, during the service’s video tribute. And Aidan accomplished that, she said, adding that his influence eases the pain of losing her child.
When he was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma at age 4, doctors told the Zauggs about the inoperable terminal cancer’s statistics and probable progression.
But Aidan wasn’t just another statistic. After radiation treatments ended in June 2006, he began getting better.
“Cancer didn’t change Aidan, Aidan changed others,” said Bishop Rusty Walker. “Many people didn’t actually know Aidan but were still touched by him.”
Walker recalled a story Aidan’s grandfather, Chet Hammack, told him about a woman who approached him at a gas station.
She said, “I really do believe in miracles,” referring to the mantra the family adopted, “Miracles happen everyday, why not Aidan?”
Though Aidan’s family did not receive the outcome they hoped for -- defeating the cancer -- Aidan was a miracle.
In the eulogy, family friend Lauree Cannon described the charismatic boy: strong, giving, a jokester, mischievous, a chef, spontaneous, creative, nutty, a friend and persistent.
“Aidan never let cancer define him. He was just Aidan,” Cannon said. “We will be better because Aidan was here.”
Above all, Aidan was loved and loving in return.
“Aidan would gently put his hands on either side of their face,” Walker recalled about Aidan’s alone time with family, “pull them in and say, ‘You’re the best mommy,’ ‘You’re the best daddy.’ ”
“He was open and loving and friendly,” Tanya said in the tribute that consisted of home movie clips of Aidan at Disneyland, playing with his parents and with his brothers, Sage and Tallon. “We’d love to take all the credit for it but that was how he was, that was how he was born.
“There’s something to be said about a little boy who has to endure so much ... and can face it with a smile,” she continued. He taught others that “you can still be happy and loving and sparkly.”
Cannon told mourners what Aidan’s family said they will miss most about their inspirational boy.
Mike said, “I will miss the sound of the boys giggling together,” Cannon recalled.
Big brother Sage said he would miss acting out video games with Aidan. Tanya and grandmother Cath Hammack said they’ll miss his green eyes: “They sparkled when he cried.”
And Chet Hammack said, “I will miss the way he made me feel.”