SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – A caravan comprised of close to 100 vehicles made its way slowly out of the PAL parking lot on Friday evening and headed toward Edgar Avenue to pay tribute to 14-year-old Travon Dickson.
A freshman at South Plainfield High School (SPHS), Travon was diagnosed with brain cancer late last year and passed away on April 4. He was laid to rest on April 10 but, due to the coronavirus crisis sweeping through the country, a traditional wake and funeral could not take place. However, that did not stop the South Plainfield community from coming out to offer their condolences the only way possible – from the safety of their cars.
“Today, I laid my son to rest. It was by far the 2nd most horrific day of my life. Yet it ended with laughter and love from family and friends. I have never said the words ‘thank you’ so much in my life…” stated Travon’s father, Samad Dickson, on his personal Facebook page. “To everyone who helped my family and I get through this week, words cannot express the love we felt and received today.”
Cars began arriving at the PAL before 5 p.m. the evening of Good Friday and 40 minutes later the caravan, led by a police escort, made its way slowly out of the parking lot onto Maple Avenue to Cedarbrook Avenue before turning onto Edgar Avenue. In front of Travon’s home, Elizabeth Chin, a member of the Wesley United Methodist Church choir, sang and family members, all wearing masks, gathered on the lawn.
One by one, the cars slowly rode past, friends and residents rolling down their windows and stopping only for seconds to offer their condolences to Travon’s family.
“I would like to thank everyone who drove past my house today in support of my son, Travon. I truly love my town, and I'm grateful for all of the families, friends, and neighbors I've met throughout my years of living in South Plainfield. You all are the best! Thank you!” added Dickson on the ‘WE are South Plainfield’ page.
“It turned out to be just so beautiful and our town came out really hard,” said Samantha Hunter, a family friend who helped fulfill the family’s vision to honor their son by joining together with others to organize the drive by memorial service.
Back in October 2019, Travon began to experience headaches and was diagnosed with a sinus infection by his pediatrician. However, his condition worsened and, on Halloween, Travon passed out in school. He was taken to urgent care where the doctor on call discovered something was going on behind his eyes. A CT scan/MRI revealed a brain tumor and cyst behind Travon’s right eye. He underwent surgery to successfully remove the tumor the following morning. The tumor turned out to be malignant and Travon was diagnosed with brain cancer. He was scheduled to undergo his first trial of chemotherapy on Dec. 13 however at the hospital, results of an MRI scan revealed that the tumor had returned.
Over the next six weeks, Travon underwent radiation therapy Monday through Friday, and also had chemo treatments once a week. In mid-February, Travon completed his first of three radiation therapy trials and, although there were side effects, was able to play basketball and ride his bike. However, a week later, the headaches returned and a trip to the emergency room confirmed that the tumor had not only grown but that there was also a cluster of new ones throughout his brain.
At that time, Travon was admitted to the hospital and his family was informed that there was ‘nothing they could do that would preserve [his] quality of life.’ His parents, however, moved forward with the second trial of chemotherapy, hoping and praying it would help but the tumors continued to effect his body in negative ways, causing blurred vision, an inability to walk, pain in different parts of his body, and seizures.
In March, Travon was released from the hospital and, over the weeks that followed, remained home under the care of his mother, Jacqueline, who is a nurse. “His birthday was March 15 and after about March 20 his health began to deteriorate...he began to lose his sight and, ultimately, he went completely blind,” said Dickson, noting that although doctors were not hopeful his son’s condition would improve, his passing on April 4 was still ‘somewhat unexpected.’
“He remained home under the care of my wife. I was also fortunate to be home with him up until he passed,” Dickson said.
“Our hearts break for the Dickson family, but we hope there is some comfort in knowing how many lives Travon has touched,” said Kristy Lowrie, a family friend and one of the organizers of the drive by memorial service. “We thank them for sharing his journey with us and for allowing us to show our love and support to them as a community.”
Travon Dickson, a lifelong resident of South Plainfield, attended Creative Kids Academy, Franklin Elementary, Grant School, South Plainfield Middle School (SPMS) and SPHS. He enjoyed playing video games, riding his bike, spending time with his friends and helping his father. Travon played flag football for the South Plainfield Eagles as well as basketball with both the South Plainfield and Plainfield recreation programs. While a student at SPMS, he was a member of the chess and ski clubs and track team, competing in the 100- and 200-meter dash. Travon also held a Black Belt in Taekwondo that he earned at Master Guillians ATA Martial Arts Academy.
“Travon was such a sweet, humble, gentle well-mannered and amazing kid. He was the best friend your kid could have,” said Hunter. “It’s a huge loss.”
“To the residents, students and staff in South Plainfield, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. To see the love and support you all showed my son Travon…simply was amazing. I thank you and will forever be in your debt,” stated Dickson on his personal page.
Travon is survived by his parents, Jacqueline and Samad Dickson; sister, Jazlyn Dickson; maternal grandparents, Robin and Thomas Jones; paternal grandparents, Trudy and Kenneth Morant; paternal grandfather, Eric Dickson; great grandmother, Jeannette Mayo; aunts, Kiata Johns, Tahani Dickson, and Sanuri Dickson; and uncles, Lavar Jones and Nuri Dickson. Funeral arrangements were entrusted to the McCriskin – Gustafson Home For Funerals and Travon was laid to rest at Hillside Cemetery in Scotch Plains.
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