Little boy dies of cancer a month after a Kansas town gave him a Christmas wonderland

Lebo, Kan., celebrates Christmas for Christian Risner, 3

Lebo, Kansas, residents celebrated Christmas on Sept. 10 as a tribute to Christian Risner, who was placed in hospice care in August. Video courtesy of Kelly Freund.
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Lebo, Kansas, residents celebrated Christmas on Sept. 10 as a tribute to Christian Risner, who was placed in hospice care in August. Video courtesy of Kelly Freund.

Christian Risner, the 3-year-old cancer patient who celebrated Christmas in September with the town of Lebo, Kan., and thousands of people on the internet, died Saturday morning.

“Christian went peacefully with the Lord this morning,” the family said on its “Prayers for Christian” Facebook page. “Please pray for our family as we prepare for final arrangements and as we figure out how to resume our everyday functions.”

Comments full of prayers and well-wishes flooded the Risner’s “Prayers for Christian” Facebook page after the post was made.

“Prayers for comfort,” read one comment. “Dear Jesus wrap your arms around the family in this very difficult journey.”

“What a brave little fighter you had,” read another. “May God wrap his arms around your family at this sad time, and may memories of your sweet angel help you through the days, weeks, and months ahead. Rest easy sweet boy...”

Christian, the son of Josh and Sarah Risner of Lebo, was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer, Rhabdoid kidney cancer, in April 2016.

Prior to the diagnosis, Christian was an active and healthy boy. According to an earlier interview with his parents, Josh and Sarah had no concerns about his health until he awoke one morning with blood in his urine. After consulting with Christian’s pediatrician, they made the trip to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

Although he had undergone a number of treatments in hopes of stopping the spread of the disease, Christian was put on hospice in August.

His family and friends organized a surprise Christmas celebration on Sept. 10 complete with decorations, presents, a visit from Santa and a ride in a horse-drawn carriage.

About 600 people attended the celebration in the small town of 900 people between Emporia and Ottawa. As much as 80 percent of the town was decorated with Christmas lights, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus made an early trip from the North Pole with a big bag of toys to join Christian and his parents for a private party and a carriage ride.

Christian opened presents, ate dinner, checked out the Christmas tree.

“He seemed to be in really good spirits,” Kelly Freund, the woman who helped organize the event, said of Christian. “He had a lot of fun.”

The Lebo Baptist Church threw a potluck dinner and hosted a silent auction to raise funds to help pay for the family’s medical expenses.

“It was 100 percent donations,” Freund said. “It was the community coming together that made it happen. People from surrounding areas made donations. They offered to bring dishes of food.”

The event raised almost $10,000, she said.

Freund, who lives in Lebo, was moved by Christian’s struggles.

She recently had her own health issues and nearly died.

“I made a commitment to God that I would let him live through me,” she said.

She added that the September event was a huge success.

“It was really good to see.”

Adam Darby: 816-234-4318, @adarby87

How to help

Donations are being collected to help Christian Risner’s family pay medical expenses. Checks payable to Christian’s Crew can be sent to:

Farmers State Bank of Aliceville

P.O. Box 66

Lebo, KS 66856

A Help for Christian GoFundMe account has also been set up.