Massachusetts Third-Grader Gets Hero’s Welcome at School After 15-Month Battle With Leukemia

Photo credit: Quincy Police

This article is one in a series at The 74 that profiles the heroes, victories, success stories, and random acts of kindness to be found at schools all across America. Read more of our recent inspiring profiles at The74million.org/series/inspiring.

Temperatures in Quincy, Massachusetts, never got above 20 degrees the day after New Year’s. But that didn’t stop a huge crowd of students, teachers, and other community members from turning out to greet 8-year-old Bridget Kelley on her first day back to school in more than a year.

The Merrymount Elementary School third-grader hadn’t been in class since September 2016, when leukemia landed her in the hospital. For 15 months, she battled the cancer in the hospital and at home, undergoing chemotherapy and receiving a stem-cell transplant from her 2-year-old sister, WBZ reported.

All that time, her dad, Dan, told the station, Bridget couldn’t wait to go back to school. And when she finally did, the entire community was as excited as she was — cheering, chanting her name, holding signs of encouragement, and exchanging welcome-back high fives.

Like the fighter she is, Bridget raised her fists in the air as a huge smile lit up her face.

“We knew Bridget’s first day back to school would be exciting, but we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from our amazing Merrymount community,” Bridget’s dad wrote on Facebook. “When we saw all of the people I thought Bridget might get overwhelmed, but she said, ‘This is awesome!’ ”

All through her difficult ordeal, Bridget kept her spirits up with a Facebook page — Bridget’s Joke Challenge — to raise awareness of leukemia and childhood cancer, and to collect funds for pediatric cancer research and other charities.

For Bridget, laughter was definitely the best medicine.

“What made this story so special wasn’t only Bridget beating cancer and returning to school, but also the way our wonderful Merrymount/Quincy community rallied around the occasion,” Dan wrote. “Thank you once again Merrymount!”

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