Makenna Linder, 6, and her mom, Amanda, are seen while on a former Manheim Fire Co. firetruck dubbed "Howie," Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. Makenna's family surprised her with a parade-style ride through Manheim on the fire truck since she completed her chemotherapy treatments recently, battling cancer for a second time.

Makenna Linder’s smile was ear-to-ear when she walked out of her Manheim home Saturday to see Howie, a former Manheim Fire Co. fire truck, decked out with princess balloons. 

Arrayed in a pink princess dress, topped off with a unicorn headpiece, Makenna climbed aboard for a surprise parade-style ride to different businesses through Manheim.

The first-grader, who has brought her Manheim Borough community together to support her in her battle with cancer, recently finished several months of chemotherapy treatments.

Makenna’s tests back in the spring showed no signs of cancer, her mother said, and the family is ready to celebrate.

Hence, Makenna’s appearance on the fire truck Saturday, driven through town to greet the Manheim community that has been supporting her.

"Oh, she was so excited," her mother, Amanda Linder, said.

Dozens of people were ready to cheer on Makenna at every one of the eight stops on Saturday. The parade finished at her school, Baron Elementary, and included a salute by the Manheim Central Marching Band and its color guard.

“We have an amazing little community,” Linder said. "We are very close.”

This has been the 6-year-old’s second battle with cancer in her young life.

Her cancer journey has mobilized Manheim with monthly “pink-out” events, in which people post pictures of themselves on social media wearing Makenna’s favorite color to show their support.

“We just finished her last (chemotherapy) treatment” the week before last, Linder said by phone early last week. “Her radiation was in March and April. She had 28 treatments straight. It was Monday through Friday every day.

“Her last scans she had were the end of May,” Linder said, “and as of then, everything looked clear. We didn’t see any signs of cancer. Her next scans will be (Tuesday) Oct. 6, so we’re hoping for the same results.”

Both Makenna and her brother, Bradyn, who is in middle school, are attending school online.

Bradyn surprised his sister by wearing a huge, inflatable pink unicorn costume at Saturday’s parade.


Makenna Linder, 6, smiles while talking with friends at Two Cousins in Manheim during one of many stops on her parade-style ride through the community, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. Makenna's family and kindergarten teacher surprised her with a ride through the community with dozens of neighbors coming out to celebrate her last chemotherapy treatment.

When Makenna was 3, she was diagnosed with a type of childhood cancer called a Wilms tumor. She lost a kidney to the disease.

At age 5, during a routine checkup not long after she started kindergarten, a different kind of cancer was detected: rhabdomyosarcoma, in her bladder.

Experienced mask-wearer

Months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Makenna wore a bright-pink mask if she had to leave the house, to protect her against germs while her immune system was compromised because of her cancer treatments. And she was doing her school work at home.


Makenna Linder, center, poses for a photo with her family and the owners of Two Cousins during one of the many stops during her parade-style ride to celebrate her completion of chemotherapy recently, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. Two Cousins is Makenna's favorite restaurant and her mom, Amanda Linder, said that the owners have become like family over the past 42 weeks while Makenna fought cancer for the second time in her life.

She was already experiencing what so many students are dealing with during the pandemic.

“At first, people were complaining about (wearing a mask) because they weren’t used to wearing them, and she would make comments about it — suck it up and do it, it just is what it is,” Linder said. “Because that’s what it’s been for her.”

Makenna no longer says, “Mommy, I’m the only one with a mask,” Linder said. “Everyone else has one on, too. She doesn’t even think about it anymore. She’s not different.”

On Sept. 25, “we had the final ‘pink-out’ because she had her final treatment,” said Julie Reed, Makenna’s kindergarten teacher and one of the main organizers of the “pink-out” events around town. “We had always talked about doing some kind of final hurrah.”

So several teachers and staff members from Baron Elementary came to the Linders’ home — where they live with Amanda’s mother, Lisa Witman — to stand outside so Makenna could see them through the window.

Manheim Central High School students raising money for families touched by pediatric cancer, through the Mini-THON for the Four Diamonds Fund, had filled the yard with pink flamingos — one of Makenna’s favorite animals, Reed said.

Reed bought the inflatable pink unicorn outfit online, because Makenna also loves unicorns.

Inside the costume, standing outside the Linders’ home on the final “pink-out” day, was Baron Elementary Principal Michael J. Pyle.


People wait with pink balloons for Makenna Linder, a local 6-year-old who has battled cancer twice, and her family arrive at Two Cousins in Manheim during one of many stops on her parade-style ride through the community, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. Makenna's family and kindergarten teacher surprised her with a ride through the community with dozens of neighbors coming out to celebrate her last chemotherapy treatment.


Makenna continues to thrive academically as she continues to attend school online. “She’s 100% in all her classes. She’s very resilient, very smart,” Linder said.

Makenna got her new princess dress, which includes a train, for the surprise parade.

“We told her we needed to pick out a fancy dress because there was a surprise coming up for her,” Linder said.

“She’s doing a lot better this week,” Linder said early last week. “Last week was really rough. I think she was the sickest last week that she’s been the whole time. It’s been almost a year, and her body’s just tired.”

Makenna will continue to have scans every three months. “You just cross your fingers and hold your breath until the results come back,” Linder said.

On Saturday, Linder was optimistic.

“The prayers seem to be working,” she said.