PORT CLINTON — If you don’t know Devin Kohlman — and there can’t be many left in this Ottawa County city of roughly 6,000 who haven’t at least heard of the 13-year-old boy — then the pageantry that unfolded at a Port Clinton park might have been mistaken for just another small-town pep rally.
But Wednesday’s assembly had a bigger purpose.
The mayor, the red-suited cheerleaders, the crowd of several hundred reflected in the silver horns played by the Port Clinton High School marching band — they came for the boy whose battle with brain cancer has rallied and united this town.
They came for Devin.
PHOTO GALLERY: Pep rally for Devin Kohlman
They brought their dogs and their youngsters; they wore black motorcycle leather and the bright red of Port Clinton’s school colors; they shared more smiles than tears.
And when the band launched into the fight song, everyone clapped along.
This one was for Devin.
Scores of his eighth-grade classmates roared hello when Mayor Vincent Leone held up a cell phone so Devin could hear and see the crowd gathered in his honor.
Devin listened on the other end of the line from his home, his round face visible on the small phone screen as the mayor swung it around, showing him the scene, the support, the love.
Later, chants of “Here we go, Devin, here we go” filled the park, as cheerleaders from his class led the crowd and his football teammates in cheer after cheer.
“We are team Devin,” they chanted.
“I believe that Devin will win,” they shouted.
This entire week, Port Clinton has shown its support for the eighth-grader diagnosed in August, 2012, with metastatic medulloblastoma.
He’s exhausted the treatment options, said his grandmother, Bobbie Araguz of Port Clinton, and the boy wanted to come home.
Sunday, Devin’s plane landed at the Erie-Ottawa Regional Airport near State Rt. 53, bringing him back from a stay at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
“He wanted to spend some of his last days with his friends and his family in his hometown,” said Mayor Leone, who presided over the pep rally and proclaimed today “Devin Kohlman Day” in Port Clinton.
The town’s done its best to make every day special since his homecoming.
Police and firefighters escorted Devin home from the airport. Volunteers festooned Adams Street Park with Christmas decorations and a sign wishing him a Merry Christmas. The mayor contributed a roughly 30-foot tree cut from his property, and it was strung with lights and positioned to be visible from windows in the Kohlmans’ nearby home.
Others followed suit, decorating storefronts with red-ribboned wreaths and front yards with holiday ornaments.
They even made it snow. Volunteers rescued ice chippings from a Fremont ice rink and trucked the white stuff to Port Clinton. The special delivery was made complete when a truck with a lift loaded up the snow and let it fall in front of the family’s windows. Volunteers packed chunks of snow against the window screen, the mayor said.
The public is invited to a party — the plan is to celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all once — from 2 p.m. to closing time today at Lock, Dock & Barrel in Port Clinton. Proceeds from meals and a silent auction will benefit the family, said friend and local disc jockey Alejandro Zapata, who is helping to organize the event.
Devin’s mother Alexis Kohlman said Christmas is her son’s favorite holiday. The family planned to put up a Christmas tree in their house, but she had no idea the entire town would celebrate early, too.
She called the outpouring of community support “amazing” and said it’s made the family excited and happy. Amid the crush of concern and love, it’s important to remember who Devin is and why he’s sparked so much support, she said.
“It’s about ... what a wonderful kid he is and how everybody loves him so much, and they’re ... rooting for him because he ... is such an awesome person. And he has cancer but it’s not who he is,” his mother said.
Seeing his friends makes her son smile. The family lets classmates troop up the steps to see him after school, but they keep a watchful eye on how tired Devin is. He’s also surrounded by his father, Kevin, and sister, Leigha, 12.
Family friend Shannon Rusincovitch of Port Clinton, who also has a child in Devin’s grade, said the pep rally came together in just a few hours after she learned the boy wanted to hear the school fight song.
Another wish come true by a town that loves a boy.
“It’s meant a lot because we’re all a family, basically. We’re just one big family, and we love being together and especially for Devin,” said Morgan Wojciechowski, a 13-year-old cheerleader and friend of Devin. “It’s tough for all of us, but we’re coming together ... to make it the best it can be.”
Darkness began to fall after the final notes from the clarinets and horns, when the cheerleaders stopped tumbling and kicking, as the crowd dispersed. About a block away, the Christmas tree sparkled in Adams Street Park.
Around the corner, two children played in the unseasonable snowbank under Devin’s second-story window, where behind a drawn shade a light shined through.
A light for Devin.