KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Lutheran High School came out in force for their homecoming pep rally. They brought the band, cheerleaders and nearly all 100-plus students out to cap off Spirit Week and get ready for Friday night’s basketball game against Wentworth.
They would usually have the pep rally in the school gym, but not this time. They took it on the road because they wanted to make sure a particular student could be there.
Fifteen-year-old freshman Kristen Wheeler has rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft-tissue cancer that’s in her abdomen. Three busloads of people emptied out in front of her house Friday afternoon, surprising her with tons of energy.
They had a Pep Rally Olympics in her front yard. They put a crown on Kristen, sat her in a chair on the front porch and had their three-legged race, tug-of-war and ice dancing on the grass.
Senior Brianna Grimm doesn’t know Kristen well, but still wanted to help organize the field trip.
"Not only do I want this to boost school spirit for everybody, but boost her spirits, know that she is loved by all of us," she said.
Kristen’s stage-four diagnosis came right after school started. She’s in chemo. The therapy is making progress on the tumor, but it leaves her drained and going to school is a challenge. Her friends threw this surprise because they didn't want her to miss out on all the fun.
Many of the students don't know Kristen well, but they say it was worth the effort.
"She's in our prayers and our thoughts,” junior Jeremy Rodriguez said. “We want her to feel welcome in the school even though she's not able to come to school very often."
Kristen said their support feels good.
"I know that they'll be there for me and they support me and love me," she said.
"Sometimes it can get lonely because when we're in the hospital so much like we have been, it's not easy to get out and see her friends," said mom Rebecca.
"The students are just incredible,” her dad, Robert, said. “They've kind of rallied around someone that they just got to know, or didn't know at all, and it's been very heartwarming."
She does her best to keep up with school work. Her friends' big hearts keep her in their community.
They also sent her mementos of this week's other spirit events.
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The hottest ticket on a Friday night for Kansas City teens is actually free. Hundreds of kids lined up to get into the Brush Creek Community Center for "Club KC," which is part of the Mayor's Nights summer program.