COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Columbus Fire Department trucks led the way as dozens drove to the Church of Christ on Cusseta Road.
It was there that family, friends, and firemen celebrated the life of a young boy recognized as an honorary firefighter.
Tavaris "TJ" Atkins, 9, found a love for all things firefighter, not long after doctors diagnosed him with bone cancer.
Fearing he wouldn't be able to run and jump like he normally would, he saw a role model in firemen and paramedics– saving lives and running into danger.
TJ's mother Sherry Atkins said the firemen and paramedics would treat him as one would welcome an old friend. That bond only reinforced TJ's dream to become a firefighter.
"He felt like if he could ever do it, he would definitely want to be a firefighter," she said, "to help people just like him."
Throughout his three-year fight, TJ established a relationship with local EMS crews, seeing them whenever he needed special medical attention.
These crews saw his passion for the service, and they asked him to join the club as an honorary firefighter.
For Atkins, seeing the support of the Columbus Fire Department proved what she already knew – her son, TJ was a hero to his family and the community.
"It meant the world to me and my family," she said. "I couldn't fathom anything better for TJ's big day."
TJ's mother and family said they wanted to especially thank the Columbus Fire Department for showing their support and being a positive influence for TJ's younger siblings Ervin, LaSandra and Cayden.