- Associated Press - Thursday, November 6, 2014

ST. JOE, Ind. (AP) - The simplest gestures can mean so much, especially to a young child.

Wednesday, more than 300 students, teachers and staff members at Riverdale Elementary School released bright-orange balloons to show their support for Jason Griggs, a second-grade student who has been battling acute myeloid leukemia since just before Thanksgiving last year.

Griggs is the son of Jason and Kasandra Griggs of St. Joe.

“It was cool,” young Jason said when asked what he thought of all the balloons and being able to see his classmates.

Tears welled in his father’s eyes as he talked about his son and Wednesday’s launch.

“Ever since he was diagnosed, we’ve had nothing but support from Riverdale and the entire community,” the elder Griggs told The Star in Auburn (https://bit.ly/1x6PFVh ). “Everybody just kind of pulls together. The churches are praying together, and our family is praying together.

“It’s just been overwhelming support,” he said.

AML is typically found in adults, but it’s rare in children and is difficult to diagnose and treat.

“He was in remission for a little while, but it relapsed in September,” Jason’s father said. “Right now, he’s on a chemo regimen to try to cure it.”

The father’s voice softened as he continued to talk.

“Right now, he’s doing last-ditch efforts to try to kick the cancer. He’s doing the last chemo regimen. His prognosis is fairly poor right now. All these people showing support, it’s kind of cool that he got to see it,” he said.

“It’s overwhelming,” Jason’s father said. “I’m kind of emotional right now, but it brought tears to my eyes, all these people out here to support him.

“He needs all the prayers he can get right now because of his prognosis,” he continued. “The more prayers he can get, obviously, the better.”

Jason missed most of the 2013-2014 school year but was able to keep up by doing schoolwork at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis and at home while undergoing treatments.

“When he was at Riley, they have a pseudo-school and a teacher there. His teacher here would send course work for him to do so he could keep up,” the father said.

When his cancer went into remission this summer, Jason was able to make the short trek to Riverdale at the start of the new school year with his friends - his family lives directly across the road from the school.

After a few weeks, however, the cancer returned, and Jason is undergoing an aggressive round of chemotherapy.

Wednesday, Jason’s schoolmates walked close to the road opposite his house before releasing their balloons. He waved to his friends from his wheelchair as he and family members watched the balloons quickly disappear into the bright, blue sky.

“Riverdale is one big family,” Principal Brennen Kitchen said. “When one of our family is hurting or struggling, we all are.

“What we wanted to do was bring a smile to Jason’s face, to make sure that he knew we are supporting him and that we are proud of him for fighting the way he has.”


Information from: The (Auburn, Ind.) Star, https://www.dekalbstar.com

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