Grizzlies stick together.
That was the message to Kaleb Hills-Dagenais, who was given a hero’s welcome when he returned to Rocky Mountain Elementary School in Elkford on Wednesday, January 23 after spending six weeks in Vancouver undergoing cancer treatment.
Kaleb and his family recently celebrated a transfer from the BC Children’s Hospital to the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, where Kaleb will be able to continue chemotherapy closer to home.
On their way east, the 10-year-old made a surprise visit to his elementary school to see his friends and classmates.
LOOK BACK: Elkford boy, 10, brave in the face of cancer
Only a select few knew Kaleb was coming that day. The family pulled into the school as students and teachers started to gather in the gym for their morning assembly.
They were met in the parking lot by the vice principal, as well as several Fernie Ghostriders players who made the trip up to support the youth on his special visit home.
His older brother Jarred slowly pushed Kaleb through the front doors of the school and into the gymnasium, their parents and the Ghostriders in tow.
As they entered the gym, people looked over and gasps quickly turned into a standing ovation by the entire school body and teaching staff.
After welcoming him back, the school presented Kaleb with a gift.
“We just want you to know that we’re all with you; Grizzlies stick together,” said vice principal Thomas Skelton.
The school modified the message on their school shirts to show their support for Kaleb, who has been diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma and is recovering from surgery to remove a tumour wrapped around his spinal cord.
The back of the shirt reads: “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles”.
“You are a hero to us, how positive you’ve stayed, climbing eight stairs to get up somewhere. We’re proud of you,” said Skelton.
The Ghostriders presented Kaleb with a signed goalie stick and invited him to be with them in the locker room for the pregame speech.
His mom Kelsey Hills stood in the doorway of the gym as Kaleb was wheeled out by his brother and pushed down the hall towards his old classroom.
“It makes me speechless that it happened,” she said. “Look at the support he got. I can’t believe how supportive the Valley is.”
To support Kaleb and his family, visit Gofundme.com/6l0sjz4.