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By Lt. Col. Bradford Leighton
The temperature was 23-degrees Fahrenheit, but it was a warm June Day in Auburn, Illinois, on Dec. 17 as the Illinois National Guard joined hundreds of first responders, schools, and community groups from across the region to give 3-year-old June Peden-Stade a parade.
"It means the world to June and us to have June's wish granted in such a big and heart-warming way," said Adam Stade, June's father. June is bravely fighting neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer.
The parade included more than 200 vehicles and floats as well as two high school marching bands, multiple cheerleading squads, school sports teams, and colorful characters from the Paw Patrol to Santa and Mrs. Claus themselves. The Illinois Army National Guard contributed 10 trucks and about 20 Soldiers from the 232nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion; Charlie Company of the 634th Brigade Support Battalion; Battery B of the 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery; and the 3637th Maintenance Company - all based in Springfield, Ill., about 30 minutes from Auburn.
The parade lasted more than two hours, with many pausing in front of June's Washington Street home to perform or to give a gift to June. The Illinois National Guard Soldiers presented June with flowers and a big Teddy Bear and saluted her bravery. With the weather outside being a little too frightful for June's health, she watched the parade through her front door window.
The Make A Wish Foundation reached out to the City of Auburn with June's wish just four days before the parade and supporters flocked in from all over Central Illinois to make the parade a reality.
Town, city, and county police and sheriff took part, including the Illinois State Police and the Illinois Secretary of State Police. Fire departments from all over, including the Illinois Fire Marshal's Office, were there in force. The Christian County Shrine Club sped around in miniature cars and "CJ and Joey" the mascots for HSHS Children's Hospital - where June receives treatment - waved to June from the back of a pick-up truck.
Lt. Col. Mike Barton, the Commander of the 232nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, said that his unit's noncommissioned officers jumped on the opportunity to support June's parade as soon as the public affairs office sent the request.
"The National Guard is part of the community and this was the community pulling together for June. We were truly honored to be part of her special day."