Facebook | Kristy Jo Hall

12-Year-Old Boy Raises Money For His Best Friend's Headstone

mason.zimmer 11 Dec 2018

Every so often, we're asked not to judge others by the company they keep. After all, somebody can have a perfectly good reason to associate with someone we don't like and it's often not fair to make them choose between friends.

But sometimes, you can tell a lot about somebody from the kind of people they attract. Although that's usually a red flag for negative traits, it can also serve as a reminder that sometimes, remarkable people can be lucky enough to find each other.

Unfortunately, that's one of the only lucky parts of this story, but it still shines bright in some incredible darkness.

For all of Kenneth "K.J." Gross' life, he was fighting for it.

Taking Time To Smell The Flowers

As his mother, LaSondra "San" Singleton, told The Detroit News, K.J. was diagnosed with leukemia before he reached his first birthday. He was saved by a bone marrow transplant from his sister, but the cancer returned three-and-a-half years later.

Sadly, this would only be the beginning of K.J.'s health issues.

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However, K.J. faced all of his challenges with a sunny disposition.

Taking Time To Smell The Flowers

And, aside from their shared love of painting and video games, this attitude likely played a part in making him a very important friend in second grade.

That friend was Kaleb Klakulak and both boys' mothers said they would gush about each other constantly.

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By the end of the school year, Kaleb and K.J.'s moms would meet each other and everyone became fast friends.

Facebook | Kristy Jo Hall

As LaSondra told The Detroit News, "He and K.J. were so much alike. They were kindred spirits; they were like brothers. Even their facial features were alike — the glasses and everything."

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By the time K.J. was nine, he was cancer-free. However, the chemotherapy he needed ended up giving him congestive heart failure.

Facebook | Kristy Jo Hall

He would spend the next three years going in and out of the hospital until his condition worsened back in January.

Kaleb would normally be too young to go into the ICU, but doctors made an exception for him.

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They painted and played video games just as they had before. The only difference was that K.J. was intubated and largely couldn't speak.

Facebook | Kristy Jo Hall

Despite this, Kaleb's mom, Kristy Hall, said the two were still able to communicate.

"It was pretty amazing to watch, " she said.

However, K.J.'s fight for his heart would soon end and he passed away on May 1.

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Kaleb was devastated, but he was also sad to hear that LaSondra couldn't afford a headstone.

YouTube | WXYZ-TV Detroit

She has five other children and a mother with Alzheimer's disease, so money is tight for her.

Realizing this, Kaleb took it upon himself to try and raise the money by doing odd jobs, collecting pop bottles, and taking PayPal donations.

As he told The Detroit News "I love Ms. San. I was sad she couldn't afford it. I wanted people to be able to find (K.J.'s grave) when they went to see him."

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After Kaleb and his mom had spread the story through social media, he surprised LaSondra with a gift of $900.

Facebook | Kristy Jo Hall

By the time this tearful hug took place, Kaleb had managed to rake enough leaves, collect enough bottles, and gain enough donations to make it halfway to his goal.

LaSondra said she was overwhelmed by his kindness. As she put it, "My son’s not here, but (Kaleb) still loves my son enough to (do) this, It just speaks volumes to the type of people that they are, and it speaks to the type of person that K.J. was — he impacted people to where they want to do this for him."

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Kaleb intends to give her the headstone as a Christmas present, and it looks like he might get his wish.

Facebook | Kristy Jo Hall

As his mom said in an update to the PayPal fund description, they reached the $2,500 goal needed for the headstone. However, the fund will remain open for the next couple of weeks to help support K.J.'s family.

According to WXYZ-TV Detroit, Kaleb, Kristy and LaSondra have picked a gravestone and it only remains to be seen if it can be installed before Christmas.

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