This story of young friendship and loss is as heartbreaking as it is beautiful
Kaleb Klakulak moved to a new town in Michigan a few years ago. Being the new kid in town is hard, which is why his friendship with K.J. Gross meant so much to him. When K.J. died earlier this year, Kaleb was heartbroken. So he decided to do whatever he could to help his friend’s family get a headstone for him.
When K.J. was an infant, he was diagnosed with leukemia. Throughout his young life, he underwent several surgeries and was limited in how much he could do, and when he could do it. But that didn’t bother Kaleb at all.
“I think they liked each other because they ‘got’ each other,” Kaleb’s mom, Kristy Hall, tells CNN. “They were both able to just be themselves and be together without having to impress the other one.” While K.J. was in the hospital, Kaleb was a frequent visitor — the two boys would try to keep things as normal as possible by playing video games together. Hall also befriended K.J.’s mom, LaSondra Singleton.
Tragically, K.J. died in May of congestive heart failure following his long battle with leukemia. Not long after, Kaleb learned his friend’s family couldn’t afford a headstone for him. The cost for a traditional, upright headstone usually starts around $1,000 or more.
Kaleb wanted to help. At first, he began doing odd jobs to help raise money. Eventually, he set up a PayPal account asking for donations for the headstone. Donations quickly began pouring in, and Kaleb and his mom handed K.J.’s mom a check for $900.
“I cried because it was unexpected. I cried because I’m trying to figure out things from day to day,” Singleton said. “I can see his final resting place. I have a place I can go and be with him.”
The initial goal was set at $2,500, and while the goal has been met, Hall says the PayPal account will be open for a few weeks and all funds raised will go directly to K.J.’s family.
K.J.’s mom says she hopes this beautiful story of friendship will spread some love in the hearts of people all over this holiday season.
“At a time in the world when there’s so much division and hatred, I hope that this brings some sort of closure of the division — that people will be able to see people of all races can get along,” she says. “And we do love each other.”