Cancer survivor mom gets big homecoming greeting

More than 100 friends and family on July 10 filled the front yard of Peachtree City resident Heather Downing, who returned home after her final cancer treatment. Downing was presented with a month's mortgage payment by nonprofit Join the Flock, Inc. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Peachtree City resident Heather Downing got a surprise visit from friends and family when returning home July 10 from her last round of chemotherapy. She was also presented with her July mortgage payment by representatives of Atlanta nonprofit Join the Flock, Inc.

A group of more than 100 friends filled the yard and street, with many wearing pink shirts and holding signs clearly denoting their love and respect for their friend.

Downing arrived at her home after her final day of treatment not expecting such a welcome, given that it was orchestrated as a surprise. She exited the car walked among the group, speaking to the endless well-wishers who cheered her on.

Also at the scene were representatives of nonprofit Join the Flock, whose goal is to support, encourage and celebrate families impacted by cancer, specifically those who are overcoming their battles with positivity and hope that inspires others.

Minutes later, a letter read by Join the Flock representative Katie Walton expressed the endless attributes displayed by Downing. Walton also told Downing that Join the Flock was providing this month’s mortgage payment as a way showing their support.

Portions of the letter are included below. The letter says it all:

“You were selected after your friends and family nominated you and we learned more of your story. Heather, we learned that you have an undeniable strength that carries you through the good and hard days.

“We learned that you love your family fiercely and no matter what, (your children) come first. You go above and beyond to stay involved with their interests and activities and you are showing them how to be a warrior. You’re a living example that with perseverance, they can accomplish exceptional things. We learned that you are a rock for your entire family.

“We have heard from so many loved ones how genuine, loving, determined and positive you are each day. You are truly inspiring so many people. Even in today’s uncertain and unprecedented times, you remain hopeful and strong, not letting anything keep your spirit down. We hope that when you look back on this season, you will smile as you remember all that you’ve accomplished and all the support from your community. You have so many people cheering you on with love, and now this includes your Flock, too. It’s because of your strength and optimism that we want to celebrate you.”

Given the mass of people filling the front yard, it was clearly evident that Heather Downing has many friends. She spoke to the group after Walton read the letter, thanking everyone for coming.

“I didn’t expect this,” Downing said. ” A lot of people have been supportive. It all makes a difference and it all matters. I love all you guys.”

Downing was described in the nomination process as a mother who is strong and puts her family’s needs above her own.

“She is always the first mom to sign-up for class parties, she pulls her friends together to support others in need, and will stand up for other that are not strong enough to fight on their own. She is one of the strongest women I know, and I wish there were more people out there like her,” one of the nomination letters said.

It was Jennifer and Mario Lazo, along with Keeli and Jamie Simpson, who co-founded Join the Flock. At the time, Jennifer was battling stage four cancer, with a dream of using her platform to support other families impacted by cancer.

Jennifer was a 1999 Fayette County High School cheerleader and graduate.