- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 5, 2014

TRAFALGAR, Ind. (AP) - As Indian Creek Middle School students returned to school Monday, they came decked out in pink.

Students wore pink T-shirts and bracelets emblazoned with “ChaseStrong.” All of the school’s teachers wore the shirts during a service day Friday.

Signs around the school and at the entrance of the Indian Creek pool declare, “We love you Chase.” Dozens of signatures cover each one.

The Indian Creek community and swimmers from all over the country are showing their support for 13-year-old Chase Smith and his family.

In July, Chase was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a cancerous tumor of the bones and soft tissue.

Hundreds of Facebook posts have been made with the #ChaseStrong theme, with everyone from local swim clubs to Olympic champions Michael Phelps and Conor Dwyer sending along their encouraging words.

The outpouring of support has helped him cope with the months of treatment ahead, Chase told the Daily Journal (http://bit.ly/1zQI0sJ ).

“I was really surprised because I didn’t expect that all of them would know about it,” he said. “I’ve always looked up to a lot of the people who were supporting me, so it was exciting.”

What started as a gesture by the Indian Creek Aquatic Club to support a teammate has grown exponentially.

Local teams have posed with posters and signboards. They made pink - Chase’s favorite color - an unofficial team color on the swim deck and around the pools.

“It’s been great just how giving and generous the whole community has been. The time, money, everything has really been amazing,” said Rhett Wisener, assistant swimming coach at Indian Creek. “At times like this, you really see how down-to-earth everyone is and how caring they are for everyone.”

Wisener was one of the first people to learn about Chase’s diagnosis. He and Katie Reese, a former Indian Creek swimmer, talked together about creating a sign of solidarity for swimmers in the area.

They chose #ChaseStrong and encouraged local teams to voice their support.

At the same time, they reached out to swimmers across the country.

Record-breaking swimmers Eric Shanteau, Cullen Jones and Mary DeScenza Mohler have posted pictures of themselves on his page and offered encouraging words.

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