On Sunday afternoon, under a bright, sunny summer sky to match the happy occasion, well over 50 people from the town came out along the highway to greet three-year-old Sara Smith and her parents as they made their highly anticipated return home.
The family had been staying at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children since April, as Sara was being treated for a heart condition.
Her stay was extended due to complications arising from an April 25 operation.
After 145 days away, their return was a momentous occasion that the town came together for.
After an emotional reception, the group accompanied Sara and her parents for a parade on the last 30 kilometres back to Main Brook, with the RCMP and later the Main Brook Fire Department escorting.
There, the family came upon houses and lawns decorated with signs and balloons, welcoming the little girl with a “heart of gold” home once again.
It was all well suited for such a momentous homecoming.
Danielle Galgay-Smith, Sara’s mother, said she was “totally overwhelmed” by the welcome home.
In fact, the entire thing was a complete surprise to her.
She had no idea any of this was planned while Sara’s father, Dave Smith, was privy to it and kept the event a secret to surprise his wife and daughter.
However, he says he had no idea it would be as big a deal as it was.
Sara has a rare congenital heart defect that means she effectively has half a heart.
She has already undergone three open-heart surgeries and has a pacemaker to regulate her heart rhythms.
After an April 25 operation in Toronto, she had been having drainage issues, her mother says.
The family had been prepared to go Philadelphia to treat Sara’s drainage issue.
But just a day before they had planned to fly out, a miracle happened.
There was a good report. The draining stopped.
“They were surprised and amazed at how she stopped draining so quickly, because it doesn’t usually happen,” said Danielle. “They were pretty much puzzled by her. Definitely a miracle.”
She says it was a continuous effort at the hospital to resolve the issues.
They were now clear to return home.
They flew to St. John’s on Aug. 30, where Sara received follow-up care at the Janeway Children’s Hospital, and then made the journey back to the Northern Peninsula.
Now that Sara is back home, there were lots of happy faces to meet her.
At first, she was a little bit shy, clinging to her dad and hiding her face from the crowd.
“She’s just not used to so many people,” said Danielle. “But she was more excited when she got in the car and had her balloons. And there was a parade, so she was quite excited.”
After the parade, when they arrived at the town hall for the reception, the big bright contagious smile that everyone knows was back on Sara’s face to greet everyone there waiting.
There she received two gift bags while lots of hugs and smiles were exchanged on the joyous occasion.
Sara will now get to spend her birthday home in Main Brook as she turns four on Sept.18.
She has a Janeway visit scheduled for October.
The Main Brook town council and the recreation committee organized the event.
Danielle thanked the people of Main Brook for their support.
“Absolutely amazing today and we’ve always gotten such amazing support from this community,” she said. “Ever since we found out about Sara’s condition, they backed us 100 per cent and this just goes to show how amazing the town is.”