Franklin — Aiden Busch is 7 years old, loves spaghetti, has a huge smile, and gives the best hugs.
"He gives the biggest bear hugs; people call them 'Aiden hugs,'" said his aunt, Michelle Kreuser. "He almost tackles you when he gives hugs."
Lately, though, Aiden's hugs have been missed, since he's still recovering from three different surgeries that involved removing a tumor from his brain stem in November.
This summer, Aiden's parents, Kevin and Jessica, began to notice that Aiden, usually always sweet and smiling, was beginning to act differently. For instance, he seemed to get agitated at small things. After a few months of trying different things and seeing different doctors, his mom, dad, and aunt took Aiden to the emergency room.
Even when they were in the emergency room, they seemed to be getting the same answers, or lack thereof, until Kreuser said they should insist on an M.R.I. or C.T. scan. The C.T. scan showed that Aiden had fluid on his brain, and later an M.R.I. showed that he had a tumor.
After the surgeries, Aiden started a long road to recovery, with all its complications and "bumps" along the road.
"We've been very impressed with Aiden," said Kreuser. "We've been trying to stay positive, and then he'd hit another bump. At times, we'd get really frustrated."
But, she said, Aiden has remained his usual self through it all, and even made bigger strides toward recovery than the doctors expected.
"He just proved them wrong every time," Kreuser said. "He's just really been a big trooper the whole time," noting that the first time he complained was not until the week after Christmas, when he mentioned a headache.
Now, Aiden is close to returning home, where he will start at-home therapy to continue regaining the ability to move his arms and legs. Because Aiden is still wheelchair-bound, though, the Busch family home is in need of a few upgrades, like a ramp and an accessible shower.
As a way to help pay for some of these needed changes, Kreuser has put together a spaghetti dinner fundraiser, "Spaghetti for Aiden," since spaghetti is his favorite food.
The dinner, which will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, at the family's parish, St. Martin of Tours in Franklin, will feature spaghetti, bread sticks and salad donated by local restaurants, plus many different raffles and both silent and live auction items, like Badgers tickets and a VIP Brewer's package.
"It's so wonderful to feel the outpouring of love and support from the businesses and community. I really want to say thank-you, because we do appreciate it," Kreuser said.
They will also be selling T-shirts and wristbands to go toward the Aiden's Angels fund, a donation account set up for Aiden.
"(Aiden's Angels) is kind of the slogan we've been using," Kreuser said. "We'll give little trinkets to the nurses, saying 'thanks for being Aiden's angels.'"
Even though he will be heading home soon, Aiden's family knows that his road to recovery still stretches onward.
"In the back of our minds, we know this isn't probably the end," Kreuser said.
Aiden will start to receive radiation or chemotherapy. Even though the tumor isn't cancerous, because it's on Aiden's brain stem, and they were only able to remove part of it, the doctors are treating it as if it were. Aiden also may need additional surgery to remove more of the tumor or on his eyes, which may have been affected by his surgeries in November.
However, Aiden's family maintains a positive outlook.
Faith, Kreuser said, is something very important to their family and Aiden, who has been appreciative of everyone's prayers so far.
"I'll tell him that the church is praying for you today, and he says, 'I'll pray for them, too," his aunt said.
"We believe the doctors and nurses are wonderful, but we do believe the prayers are really helping," she added.
Even outside the family's church, people have been supporting Aiden. His second-grade class at Country Dale Elementary School will send him care packages with notes. Others have sent him ornaments for his Christmas tree. And his older brother, Preston, 9, has given him handwritten notes and posted updates on the Aiden's Caring Bridge page.
"Me and my brother like to play Minecraft together. I am in the waiting room now. I can't wait to play sports and video games again with him," Preston wrote on the website in November.
In the midst of receiving the cards and gifts, Aiden has continued to generous himself.
For example, just before Christmas, he met a girl from out of state whose room was a few doors down from his, and one day looked at his aunt and asked, "Auntie, can we ask her if she wants to see my Christmas lights?"
His aunt is sure that if he could, Aiden would want to give every single on of his "angels" a personal thank-you.
"If Aiden could – he can't walk or use his arms – he would want to give a big hug to everyone," Krueser said.
If you go
What: Spaghetti for Aiden
When: 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7
Where: St. Martin of Tours Parish, 7963 S. 116th St. Franklin, WI
Cost: $5 for kids, $10 for adults