On Friday, Oct. 27, Framingham State University celebrated Devin Suau Day to honor the legacy of a 6-year-old Framingham resident who recently died of cancer.
FSU paid tribute by shining green lights around campus and by encouraging students and faculty to wear green, as it was Devin’s favorite color.
Suau fought a nine-month battle with a rare form of brain cancer called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). He died Oct. 20, just one week before his seventh birthday.
According to Dana Farber Cancer Institute, DIPG is a “highly aggressive and difficult to treat brain tumor found at the base of the brain.”
When Devin was diagnosed with DIPG nine months ago, the #WhyNotDevin movement was born.
Jessica Cochrane, a close friend of the Suau family and one of the five administrators on the #WhyNotDevin Facebook page, said, “Following Devin’s diagnosis in January 2017, it was mind blowing to learn that upwards of 400 children a year were given a less than a one percent chance of survival from a pediatric cancer that most people had never heard of.
“We knew that someone would be the first to beat DIPG, and we had to ask, ‘Why Not Devin?’” she added.
Cochrane said the #WhyNotDevin movement began with just friends and family, but because of Devin’s captivating charm, the movement grew far beyond anyone’s expectations.
“Devin was so charismatic and witty that people couldn’t help but root for him. He was truly one of a kind,” she said.
FSU planned the tribute with the help of Brother2Brother (B2B), a club on campus that had been following his story, according to President F. Javier Cevallos.
“Brother2Brother, asked the University to put out the call to our community to ‘go green’ for Devin. We thought it was a great idea and were happy to do anything we could to support the effort. I think it’s wonderful any time student clubs can lead community-wide initiatives such as this,” said Cevallos.
Deron Hines, president of B2B, said, “We went green because we fully believed in this strong boy. Starting with the ‘Why Not Devin’ hashtags, I felt like we were his army of support.
“It’s unfortunate that his fight ended the way it did, but we still wanted to pay respect to his family who fought alongside him each step of the way,” added Hines.
Cevallos said he believes it is important to honor Devin’s legacy because of the many people who were touched by Devin’s courageousness and spirit.
“Devin was from Framingham and it was important for the University to show Devin’s family that we are thinking about them during this difficult time, while also continuing to bring awareness to this rare form of cancer,” added Cevallos.
Once B2B proposed the idea of “going green” for Devin, the Framingham State facilities department decided to help by changing lights across campus to green.
Patricia Whitney, assistant vice president of facilities, said, “While preparing for the installation of the green lights, some of the facilities crew decided that it would be nice to expand the lighting, so they added green lighting at several other buildings on campus, including the Development and Alumni House, 1812 House, 23 Salem End Road House and the Ecumenical Center.
“It was nice to see the facilities team get excited about the cause and go above and beyond,” she added.
In addition to shining green lights for Devin, members of the University community wore green.
Residence Life rallied together to wear green for Devin on Oct. 27.
Amanda Haskins, area director of Linsley and North halls, said she not only wore green, but participated in “Devin’s Dash,” a 5k fundraiser to support the Suau family.
“You couldn’t help but see him and want to help him fight his battle in any way possible. He was a force to be reckoned with and his strength is something worth embodying and trying to incorporate into every single day,” said Haskins.
“I was very happy to wear green for Devin to honor the memory of a little boy who was taken too soon,” she added.
Glenn Cochran, director of Residence Life, said, “I felt like he had inspired so many people with the courage and spirit he demonstrated.”
The #WhyNotDevin movement not only inspired Framingham, but the surrounding communities as well.
The Natick Target responded to the hashtag WhyNotDevin with its own hashtag WeSeeYourLight in order to raise awareness for DIPG.
The New England Patriots honored Devin by lighting up Gillette Stadium in green on Sunday, Oct. 22 during their game.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh officially declared Oct. 27 Devin Suau Day, after stating that as a survivor of childhood cancer himself, his heart is with the Suau family to find a cure for children fighting DIPG.
Senior Erika Viens wore green to work on Oct. 27 as her company, Nordstrom, encouraged its employees to support the #WhyNotDevin campaign.
“I chose to wear green because he deserves the support and the awareness. I felt like it was the right thing to do,” said Viens.
Junior Joe Perry also wore green on Friday along with his colleagues in the FSU IT department.
“A major loss was surely felt throughout the community, but by wearing green, we were able to celebrate the spirit of Devin and the life he lived,” said Perry.
Senior Molly Driscoll said she wore green because she wanted to bring awareness to cancer, especially on a college campus.
“The least we could do was honor this little boy by wearing his favorite color. It really brought people together and raised awareness for DIPG at the same time,” she added.
The #WhyNotDevin campaign had a significant impact on the Framingham community.
Cochrane said, “The unwavering and ongoing support for Devin and his family has been amazing. The Framingham community has been the core of the #WhyNotDevin movement from the very beginning. They are continuing to keep Devin’s memory and mission at heart.”
Cochrane added it is heartwarming to drive around and see green lights shining bright for Devin, because it keeps his spirit alive and continues to remind people to bring awareness to DIPG.
A campaign called “Seven for Devin” was created to encourage supporters of the Suau family to donate seven dollars in honor of Devin to help start a foundation in his name to find a cure.
According to Cochrane, she believes in order to find a cure for a currently inoperable tumor, it is important that people band together to tell politicians to demand more funding for research.
“Our children deserve a chance to grow up, and it is up to all of us to ensure our politicians hear that loud and clear,” said Cochrane.
Cochrane wants people to know that a way to keep Devin’s fight going is through acts of kindness.
“Do something kind for someone in Devin’s name, tell them his story and ask them to pay it forward,” she added.
As far as any plans to honor Devin in the future, Cevallos believes the University will take the opportunity to continue to celebrate Devin Suau Day annually.
“I could certainly see us going green again next year on the anniversary of Devin’s birthday,” said Cevallos.
Cochrane said, “Devin didn’t ‘lose’ his battle. It wasn’t a fair fight.”
She added, “Devin started a movement to end DIPG, and it’s our responsibility, and privilege, to finish what he started.”