, Salem, MA

January 7, 2014

Inauguration rocked by 'brave' Riley


---- — BEVERLY — Mike Cahill will have to make some unpopular decisions as mayor, but it’s safe to say one of his first actions was a hit with everybody.

Cahill used the occasion of his inauguration to declare yesterday “Riley Fessenden Day” in honor of the 6-year-old girl who has galvanized the city as she battles cancer.

Cahill bent down to present Riley with an oversized key to the city, a bouquet of flowers and a gift certificate to Bertucci’s, one of her favorite restaurants.

Cahill called Riley a “beautiful, brave 6-year-old” who has inspired the community with her spirit.

“Riley, you have made the city of Beverly fall in love with you,” he said.

Riley, a first-grader at Ayers Ryal Side School, was diagnosed in May with a rare form of cancer called esthesioneuroblastoma. The city has responded with a show of support and fundraising, including a “Riley Rocks” carnival attended by thousands at the high school in August.

In December, Riley and her cheerleading squad got to meet Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium. Over the holidays, supporters organized a “12 days of Riley Rocks,” with school PTOs and other groups delivering gift baskets to Riley’s house.

Later this month, Riley and her family will go to Walt Disney World, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Todd Fessenden, Riley’s father, after yesterday’s ceremony. “We’re completely overwhelmed and happy for all the support. We’re definitely proud to call Beverly our home.”

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or