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Parade helps Ferguson cancer survivor celebrate 6th birthday

FERGUSON – Paydenn was turning 6 but couldn’t have a birthday party, between the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that she’s fighting cancer. So the Ferguson police chief threw her a street “party”: a parade of cars driven by well-wishers including friends, neighbors, police and fire personnel.
Paydenn was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma in July 2020. She can’t risk close contacts. But a chance encounter with Ferguson Police Chief Jason Armstrong sparked the idea to give Paydenn a birthday to remember.
Last week, Paydenn and her mother, Samantha Mason, came upon a man in a business suit directing traffic on North Florissant Drive. Mason was surprised to discover it was the chief, who had happened upon a nasty traffic accident while off duty and got out of his car to direct traffic.
Mason remarked that before the pandemic, the police department had been organizing birthday parades for children, and she asked the chief if he could organize such a parade for her daughter’s 6th birthday.
“I have a 6-year-old daughter myself,” Armstrong said. “When I think of the likelihood that I would be on the street directing traffic and the likelihood that Samantha and Paydenn would drive by, I have to think I was supposed to be there.”
A line of cars form a parade through Ferguson on Saturday to help 6-year-old cancer survivor Paydenn celebrate her birthday. Photo courtesy of Tim Larson
Among the drivers in the parade were “police cars and fire cars from all over,” Armstrong said.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell was also among the well-wishers. “We are supporting an amazing and brave young lady on her 6th birthday as she continues to fight this terrible disease,” Bell said before the parade.
Participants met 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of First Baptist Church, 333 N. Florissant Road in Ferguson, then drove west down January Avenue. Paydenn and her family greeted the parade at the corner of January and Warfield Drive.
The guest of honor, seated on a stuffed unicorn, waved regally to the crowd.
For those who want to help Paydenn and her family, a A GoFundMe account has been set up at: To speak with the family, call Samantha Mason at 314-630-0817.

Staff is home to The NorthSider and The SouthSider weekly community newspapers. The SouthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Tuesday. The NorthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Thursday. They are distributed at over 600 locations across St. Louis.

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