PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Thursday, a Eureka teen fighting rare cancer took a flight he’ll never forget.
In December of last year, 14-year-old Eureka Middle School student Hunter Grusy was diagnosed with a form of cancer affecting his lung known as Ewing’s Sarcoma.
“His type is called an Askin tumor, which there’s about 2 cases a year. So we’re talking pretty rare on the scale of rare,” said Sue Grusy, Hunter’s mother.
The cancer has caused Hunter to stay and receive treatment at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee since Christmas.
“He was removed from school, from sports, from church youth groups, from all the things, his family,” Sue Grusy said.
Thursday, Hunter and Sue were flown from Memphis to Peoria with the help of LifeLine Pilots to attend his 8th-grade graduation.
“It means a lot, I’ll get to see my friends and the classmates I have for graduation after what feels like a year,” Hunter Grusy said.
LifeLine Pilots is a non-profit that utilizes volunteer pilots to provide free air travel for people with medical needs.
“The execution part of it is fulfilling but then being able to talk and converse, and get to know Hunter and his family and to know what he’s coming up for and what’s he’s been through. To be able to do that, it was huge,” said Jeff Hullinger, LifeLine volunteer pilot.
Hunter’s father John said he is thankful that LifeLine helped his son experience graduation and said the community has been supportive as well.
“We get cards and people reaching out just every week, and I just love our community,” John Grusy, Hunter’s father said.
While he still has challenges ahead, Hunter said he’s found his strength through faith.
“If you want to get through a hard time count on Jesus, that’s it,” Hunter Grusy said.
Hunter’s parents said at St. Jude they’ve been able to remove two softball-sized tumors from his lung, and he has responded well to chemotherapy. They said next week, he’ll go back to Memphis for more treatment, and it’s their hope that in six weeks there will be no evidence of cancer.
During graduation, Hunter walked across the stage with his green cap and gown, as well as his favorite hat.
“I’m a Cubs fan, I even have a cubs shirt here,” said Grusy.
Hunter said it’s exciting to see his teachers and classmates.
“It’s great to see everyone, they are happy to see me. I’m happy to see them, it’s exciting fun. It’s just great to interact with people from my class again,” said Grusy.
Eureka School District Superintendent, Bob Bardwell said the community will continue to rally for Grusy.
“We actually just had a special night, just for him just to raise some money for their family’s finances as they travel back and forth to Memphis,” said Bardwell.
Bardwell said Hunter will continue to inspire his classmates.
“When his friends saw him, it was just encouragement to them as well, just to see him up and moving around. Just enjoying what a normal kid would as far as 8th-grade graduation goes,” said Bardwell.