Holiday Heroes: iCaleb and Co.

Holiday Heroes: iCaleb and Co.

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HAMLET, In. -- Our ABC57 Holiday Heroes Series returns with a closer look at a foundation making a big impact for pediatric cancer patients and their families in northern Indiana.

We introduce you to the boy behind it.

What does it mean to be a survivor?... in a battle for your life.

For Seth Hoppe, the worst day of his life was the day his then 18-month-old son, Caleb, was diagnosed with leukemia.

"It was such a long journey and looking back, it went by quick, but those days were long," Hoppe says.

After more than three years of chemo, Caleb heard the two sweetest words, "cancer free." And like many survivors who have gone through the trials of treatment, Caleb feels empathy stronger.

"It hurts me," Caleb Hoppe, now years removed from his treatment, starts to explain. "I don’t like when kids are just like laying there being sick."

It's why he's driven to help others, and now he’s on a mission to make a difference.

A decade ago, iCaleb and Co was born out of an experience so many stuck in the hospital can relate to, a need for connection.

"Missing the family time and seeing the face-to-face with the grandparents and brother," Seth recalls.

So, the Hoppes bought an iPad, which in 2012 was still in its infancy. Right away though, they recognized the benefits, especially for cancer patients.

"That’s the main thing with children with cancer is you cannot contract any germs or get sick, otherwise you’ll have long hospital stays," Seth explains.

For Caleb though, the iPad did something else. It provided an escape.

"I played on my iPad before I got a spinal tap to take my mind off things," Caleb says.

Now, 40 spinal taps and some 10 years later, the Hoppes go to local hospitals handing out iPads, OtterBox cases, and $100 iTunes gift cards.

Caleb describes what that's like going from the patient to survivor.

"They smile and they say, like: 'Oh my gosh, this is, like, incredible,' and they start playing games and downloading games on it," Caleb says.

For Caleb, it's a personal touch by paying it forward.

Caleb describes going back into the same hospital, this time to help patients, leaves him with a feeling of gratefulness.

In a decade, through donations, the foundation has given away more than 400 iPads to pediatric cancer patients. Caleb has no intention of stopping, but he does have a separate dream.

"I want to become a professional basketball player in the NBA," Caleb says with a wide smile.

It's a dream that, growing up, I shared with Caleb as I battled leukemia at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. You see, as cancer survivors, you shoot for the stars because you already know where you’ve come from and what it takes to beat the odds.

In case you're wondering, here's some quick facts about leukemia:

  1. While it’s the most common type of cancer, childhood leukemia is still considered a rare disease.
  2. Three out of every four cases of childhood leukemia is ALL.
  3. Most childhood cancer survivors have at least one chronic health condition as a result of their treatment. 

To learn more about Caleb and Co and the work Caleb does, you can visit the website, icalebandco.org.

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