Freshman Dane Erickson had a haircut to schedule.
He’d always wanted a buzz cut. The ease, the style; it all appealed to him.
But it wasn’t the glamor of a shaved head that prompted him to call his hairdresser requesting the cut. It was Caleb.
Three weeks ago, junior Calvin Ball’s mother called him before a football game against the Wyandotte Bulldogs; something was wrong with his little brother.
First down. Please don’t let it be true.
Incomplete pass. I have to know.
Touchdown. Could it really be Leukemia?
It would be Terre Manny, mother of freshman CJ Manny and family friend of the Balls, to break the news to Dane: his teammate and childhood friend, freshman Caleb Ball, had been diagnosed with childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia .
“[The haircut] took me awhile to get used to, but I know it’s for the better,” Dane said. “I was only experiencing a minor side effect of what chemo does, so I had no room to complain.”
The American Cancer Society shows that ALL is the most common form of cancer among children, and the most successful in recovery. It also shows that signs of the disease include feeling tired, weak, dizzy or lightheaded, obtaining fevers, bleeding, bruising easily and shortness of breath.
For Caleb, it started with a bruise. More surfaced, red bumps emerged, then came the nosebleeds.
“I didn’t think much of [Caleb’s bruises],” Calvin said. “I didn’t even know some of it was happening.”
Dane, CJ and Caleb’s friendship was rooted by their upbringing in Cub Scout troop, 3381, which Terre sponsored. In a rampant effort of support, Terre and CJ erected a plan that involved Dane. It could not only provide potential financial aid for the Balls, but a community-wide support system with a $1.00 purchase.
They would create cyan, rubber wristbands, the color hand-picked by Caleb himself, besieged in two words that would hold a family and community together.
Team Caleb, they read.
Dane sold over 100 bands in five days, only a fraction of the approximate $1,200.00 profit thus far. Although Dane made his own dent in the number, he isn’t the only salesman at East; senior Charlie Jensen sold over 400.
“CJ and his mom ordered about 1,100 of them at first, and [I] had the idea to use SHARE funds to buy more and then give all of the money to the Ball family for medical expenses,” Jensen said. “The Balls are a great family and anything I could do to help, I wanted to do.”
Although the chemo will wane Caleb’s physical strength, the East freshman football team is determined to keep his spirit alive. They signed footballs, sketched “get well soon” posters and some opted to shave their heads when Caleb’s hair turns to wisps and eventually falls out. They even went so far as to reaching out to Kansas City Chiefs’ safety, Eric Berry.
“My friend was just diagnosed with leukemia yesterday and he plays on our team,” Dane wrote to Berry. “We would do whatever it takes for you to pay him a visit to give him the biggest hope possible, you are going to be his idol.”
Another teammate, freshman Michael Spivak, grew up with Caleb. At Corinth Elementary School, they played for different football teams, Michael for a junior Lancer team, Caleb for his church. In middle school, they returned to Corinth to play football on Saturdays. This year marked the first time were able to play on the same team together.
“I was really excited [to play with him],” Spivak said. “He was just starting to suit up and play when he was diagnosed.”
For the next month, Caleb, with a practically non-existent immune system, will recover at home. His condition Playing Call of Duty with Calvin and catching up on geometry and world regional studies with a tutor.
“He’s got a real good chance to recover,” Terre said. “But he’s still got three years of fighting ahead of him, and when he sees his family, teachers and friends wearing the bands, it’ll give him more incentive to fight the disease.”
So when he returns, Caleb’s team — his family, his community, his football team — will greet him with their support on their wrist.
“It’s a way that people can show their support for Caleb and to show that they’re [there] to help him in his fight,” said East Alumni and Caleb’s older brother, Kyle Ball. “Everyone that wears it is on Caleb’s team.”