Kirk Boxleitner/Staff Photo

Cancer survivor teen rides in Strawberry Festival Parade with pirate

MARYSVILLE — After being diagnosed with leukemia on Christmas Eve, Haylie Nordstrom received another diagnosis, this time confirming she was cancer-free, at Seattle Children's Hospital May 16.

MARYSVILLE — After being diagnosed with leukemia on Christmas Eve, Haylie Nordstrom received another diagnosis, this time confirming she was cancer-free, at Seattle Children’s Hospital May 16.

The same week that her first follow-up appointment verified she was still clear, the teen invited family, friends and supporters from throughout the community to celebrate at her home in Marysville June 18. The guest list included one salty dog who’d been there for Haylie when she was at her worst.

“She’s a phenomenal kid,” said Peter Klasell, nicknamed “Big Boat” when serving as a swashbuckling rogue for the Pirates Charity Foundation. “I had to gown up just to see her when she was in the hospital, but she had a great attitude.”

Haylie’s dad, Jason, recalled that, when “Big Boat” met Haylie in the hospital, “She hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time. Whatever can lift her spirits, we’re all in for.”

By the time Big Boat showed up at Haylie’s doorstep that Saturday, with prizes to give out to the kids, her hair had grown back enough to resemble a fashionable close-cropped style. Haylie still has at least a year of monthly check-ups to go. Her her dad noted: “She thinks her body is in better shape than it is, so she’s probably pushing herself a bit too hard, but she’s a resilient kid. She never complained.”

A surprise Klasell had for Hailey that day was that she would be riding with him in the Marysville Strawberry Festival that evening in the “Gooey Duck.” Her dad and sister Emily got to ride too in the tricked-out rig, an all-black ride festooned with logos, plastic skeletons and light-up sirens.

The Nordstroms were guests of honor, and they received a police escort through streets that had been closed off to prepare for the parade. Klasell chauffeured them and asked about their plans for the summer. “I’m booked through August,” Haylie said, after sharing several lingering kisses with her boyfriend before leaving the house and being warned by her father not to text on her phone during the parade.

When informed she would appear in The Marysville Globe newspaper, Big Boat added, “Yeah, people are going to be talking about you.”

Haylie laughed and shook her head. “Oh, jeez,” she said. “Well, it won’t be the first time.”

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