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Aurora boy with leukemia dies day after graduating kindergarten

Aries Gonzalez his mother Nicole. |  Submitted Photo

Aries Gonzalez and his mother Nicole. | Submitted Photo

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Updated: July 7, 2012 8:29AM

A 7-year-old Aurora boy lost his battle with leukemia just one day after graduating from kindergarten.

Aries Gonzalez, known around Beaupre Elementary School as “Jaybird,” died early Thursday morning after a battle with leukemia, East Aurora School District spokesman Clayton Muhammad said.

The boy had attended his kindergarten graduation ceremony at Beaupre on Wednesday.

“He was so excited because he got to graduate. That was the last thing he wanted,” his mother, Nicole Gonzalez, said Friday. “He said, ‘Mommy, I made it.’”

Kindergarten teacher Lindsey Geshiwlm had Gonzalez in her class for two years as he dealt with his medical problems.

After a stem cell transplant, Aries developed Grafts-versus-Host Disease, a condition where transplanted immune cells attack a host body’s cells. Aries was diagnosed with leukemia at 20 months, his mother said.

“I will remember the little smiles that came to his face when he would come to school and the class would say ‘Hi,’” Geshiwlm said. “He would always come to school happy no matter what. He loved the other kids no matter how he was feeling.”

Geshiwlm said the class wasn’t sure if Aries would be able to make graduation. He had been out of school since the end of March.

“His grandma said kindergarten was one of the things that kept him going,” Geshiwlm said. “I think graduating meant a lot to him.”

Aries’ mother said the boy loved going to school, watching friends play outside, his 3-year-old brother — and Spiderman.

“Jaybird loved Spiderman. If he could get a tattoo, it would be a tattoo of Spiderman,” Nicole Gonzalez said. “He loved to smile. He was my angel, my hero, my backbone, my soldier.”

Aries’ nickname was a hybrid of his middle name, Jayden, and his mother’s nickname, “bird.”

In April 2010, Aries and his mom were part of a Midwest group of young cancer patients who flew to Florida for a Disney vacation courtesy of not-for-profit Dream Flite. He told a reporter at the time that he was excited to see Mickey Mouse.

Aries had been out of school since March, bouncing back and forth between home and Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, his mother said.

“I think he went to sleep peacefully despite his chronic (disease that affected) his lungs, skin, liver. He was on oxygen, but he didn’t suffer. He wasn’t in pain,” Nicole Gonzalez said. “I think he knew it was time to go.”

Muhammad shared the news on his Facebook page Friday. In just a few hours, the update with Aries’ photo had nearly 12,000 ‘Facebook likes’ and hundreds of comments.

Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday at Dieterle Memorial Home in Montgomery. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the funeral home.

Donations can be made to a memorial fund at Old Second Bank under Aries’ mother’s name, Nicole V. Gonzalez.

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