When he was in second grade, Kaleb Klakulak met a new friend named Kenneth ‘K.J.’ Gross.
The boys bonded immediately over their shared interest in video games and art, spending all their free time together.
Although their friendship was no different from that of most boys their age, K.J. had been dealing with big challenges— like being diagnosed with childhood leukemia.
“We found out at 13 months old that he had leukemia,” K.J.’s mother LaSondra ‘San’ Singleton told Detroit News. “He got a bone marrow transplant from his sister. Three-and-a-half years later, he relapsed, and he had to get another bone marrow transplant from another donor.” Despite these challenges, K.J. was a fighter. He ultimately beat cancer twice— but by that time, the chemotherapy had taken its toll, and doctors diagnosed him with congestive heart failure.
Six years later, when K.J.’s condition worsened, Kaleb would often visit him in the hospital.
Together, they would spend their time watching television and playing video games. The visits acted as brief moments of ‘normal’ life.
“K.J. was intubated, so he wasn’t able to speak. But they would communicate. It was pretty amazing to watch,” LaSondra said.
Sadly, on May 1. 2018, K.J. passed away.
His family and friends were devastated. But when Kaleb learned LaSondra couldn’t afford a gravestone, he knew he had to step in.
To pay for K.J.’s headstone, Kaleb started working odd jobs, collecting bottles, and soliciting donations online.
His mother Kristy Hall helped by creating a GoFundMe account. She then posted the following message on Facebook, where it quickly went viral:
“If you have odd jobs that Kaleb can do to earn money, he would greatly appreciate that.”
“I really think this is a great thing for Kaleb to focus on and help him with his healing, as well as K.J.’s mom, who misses her baby and has to visit and unmarked grave.”
As Kaleb’s goal spread throughout the community, local media outlets started covering the story too.
When Ira Kaufman Chapel owner David Techner read about the young boys in the Detroit News, he decided to step up. Working with a contract partner, the companies donated a headstone for K.J.’s grave. “The story really touched my heart,” Techner told Detroit News in a later report. “Here’s this 12-year-old kid who saw a need and did what needed to be done, so I’m just following this young man’s lead.”
Although Elmwood Cemetery has a policy to wait until the Spring to install headstones, general manager Bonita Smith made a special exception.
As a result, Kaleb was able to gift the new tombstone to LaSondra for the holidays.
The epitaph reads: ‘K.J. Gross, cherished son, brother & friend.”
As you can imagine, LaSondra was overwhelmed by Kaleb’s good deed. Holding back tears, she said: “My son’s not here, but [Kaleb] still loves my son enough to do this. It speaks volumes to the type of people that they are, and it speaks to the type of person that K.J. was— he impacted people to where they want to do this for him.”
Since being shared, Kaleb and K.J.’s story has been viewed thousands of times. Their friendship and Kaleb’s compassion are a testament to all that is good in the world.
“Kaleb bro you are truly an amazing friend. Your effort to do such a great deed for your bud is inspirational. I’m sure he’s watching over you and appreciates you very much.”
“Wow. Humanity and friendship at its finest.”
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