Sure, Caleb Fritts and Jonathan Bland both attend Grace Outreach Church on Market Street in Henderson. That’s where they’re in the same Sunday school class. But outside of that?
“They don’t go to the same school and they don’t really hang out outside of church,” said Dana Bland, Jonathan’s mother.
That’s partly why she was so taken aback when Caleb, 11, decided to give all the money he earned over the summer stacking boxes, washing dishes and sweeping floors to help Jonathan fight Ewing’s Sarcoma, a type of bone cancer.
“It’s humbling, you know,” Dana Bland said of the $300 gift. “He worked all summer long to raise
money, and he gave all of it to him.”
But that’s not all. Caleb also organized and took part in a service learning project at North Middle School, where he’s a sixth-grader.
Under the guidance of Krystalynn Wilson, his language arts teacher, Caleb led a Penny War, where class periods competed with each other to raise the most money.
From that, Dana Bland received a check for $240.
That money will go to help pay for treatment Jonathan is receiving at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. The 10-year-old was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma on Aug. 16, after he began complaining of pain in his left leg.
Now the son of Gregg Bland is getting a cycle of treatments that range from two to five days every other Thursday. That means five different chemotherapy medications until sometime in November.
At that time, he’ll have surgery to remove the part of the bone that has cancer, and then he’ll have reconstructive surgery.
Jonathan then will have eight or nine more months of chemotherapy, his mother said.
Currently, the fifth-grader’s cancer is localized in his left femur, which is a good sign. The concern is that it may metastasize.
“It’s been so surreal at times,” Dana Bland said. “He was one of the healthiest kids. He never was sick at all, and then to get this … One in a million kids will get this kind of bone cancer. They say it’s kind of rare.”
Meanwhile, Jonathan has received a lot of support from his friends at Evansville Lutheran School. A couple of his friends have shaved their heads in his honor, and others have purchased T-shirts to raise money for his treatment.
“It helps a lot,” his mother said. “They just treat him like he’s normal, which is what he wants. He doesn’t want to be treated any different.”
Caleb, however, thought otherwise.
John Fritts, Caleb’s father, said his youngest son decided to give Jonathan money after the minister at their church told a story about the widow’s mite from Mark 12:41-44. This woman, described as a poor widow, gave all she had to the treasury, even though it wasn’t much.
Contrast that with the rich man mentioned in Matthew 19:16-24, who asked Christ what he had to do to obtain eternal life. Told to sell all his possessions and follow Jesus, the rich man decided against it.
“It’s kind of nice to hear an 11-year-old who not only hears the word, but receives it into his heart and obeys it,” said John Fritts. “It’s kind of rare, especially for a kid who’s worked four days a week all summer long and then to give it all away.”
He said Grace Outreach Church doesn’t pass an offering tray, and there’s no pressure to give. But on this particular occasion, the pastor said Jonathan’s story was unique.
“And the following Wednesday was when Caleb (donated the money),” his father said. “I guess it had been on his mind the whole time.”
It had been, in fact. Caleb said Jonathan is his friend and he’s worried about him. And he was inspired by the stories he heard from the Bible about the importance of thinking of and caring for others.
“He’s a special kid,” John Fritts said.
Jonathan Bland has a Facebook profile at https://www.facebook.com/Kick inCancerWithJJ.
There also is an account set up at Old National Bank under Kickin Cancer With JJ.