If you're looking to get a little exercise this weekend, listen to some great music, snag some great prizes and meet the Notre Dame Football Team, then University Park Mall is the place to be Saturday morning.
It's Memorial Children's Hospitals 2nd Annual Hearts of Gold Walk. It's a great family event and you can walk anytime between 7:30 and 10 a.m. If you have healthy children, count your blessings.
This walk raises funds for the countless children Memorial treats with life threatening illnesses, right here in town.
One of them is a little boy named Caleb who I had the pleasure of meeting this week. Like most little boys, 2-year-old Caleb and Carsen Hoppe love trains and their John Deere tractors. Seth and Andrea Hoppe of Hamlet, in Starke County say finding out they were having twins was both a shock and joy.
“I was shocked and scared and overwhelmed and nervous at the same time,” says Andrea Hoppe whose son Caleb is battling Acute Leukemia. “They said there is two and I was like oh boy.”
Oh boy was right. Twin sons, little energy balls who can't get enough of playing with their farm or Thomas the train.
“We tried and tried and tried for so many years and with two twice the fun,” says Seth Hoppe Caleb’s Father.
Moving along with twice the fun until at 17-months, Andrea noticed Caleb, the more outgoing of the two was not so energetic.
“We noticed he was tired and had some bruising on his shin so we went in just for blood work and I assumed he was anemic,” says Andrea. “The doctor just did a CBC, a complete blood count, and they called us three hours after the appointment and said to go Memorial.”
Caleb was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
andrea “I just went numb,” explains Andrea. “When you think cancer you think the worst of course.”
Within hours Andrea and Caleb were taken by ambulance to Riley Chldren's Hospital. A port was put in his little chest and he received his first round of chemotherapy.
They were in Indianapolis five days and then it was back to Memorial where Caleb could be treated three or four times a week and stay at home.
Knowing he would need to spend a lot of time at home, and away from others, the Hoppe's turned their basement into a virtual playground for the twins.
While Caleb is tolerating his chemo well right now, and growing some hair back, they say it was heartbreaking to watch him early on.
“He got sick a lot at the beginning and then I think his body kind of got used to it,” explains Andrea.
Caleb is now down to treatment once a week and hopefully this week will start an oral chemo that he will get for three years as a maintenance dose.
The Hoppe's say having a children's hospital of this caliber in South Bend is a godsend.
“I can't even explain how big a relief it is that there's something like that so close,” says Andrea.
“When he was getting his most intense chemotherapy it was three times a week so I can't imagine driving two and a half hours to Indy,” explains Seth.
Thanks to Memorial and it's staff hundreds of Michiana children don't have too. They can get their treatment and often go home at night to be where children should be, in their own beds with their family.
The Hoppe's say the prognosis and future for Caleb and their family of four looks bright.
“He was cancer free,” explain Andrea and Seth. “Eight days into treatment, the cure rate for leukemia with ALL is like 90 to 92 percent cure rate so odds are in our favor.”
While no parent would pick cancer for their child, the Hoppe's say the fact that is was Caleb is not surprising.
“He's the alpha, says Andrea. “He's very outgoing and wherever Caleb goes, Carsen is behind him following him around.”
While Caleb can't walk this weekend, Andrea and little Carsen and Team Hoppe will be sporting shirts at the Hearts of Gold Walk with their little prize fighter on the front.
Walking for Caleb and other Michiana children waging, and who will sadly have to wage the same battle as their son and encouraging other to do the same.
“I would say come out, because you never know when you are going to need Memorial and they're awesome,” says Andrea
It is awesome that Caleb is in remission and able to ride the rails with his twin. Something they will hopefully be doing for years to come, as teenagers and adults.
If you'd like to support Team Caleb or just walk you can go to the Hearts of Gold website.
For more information about Team Caleb visit: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/calebhoppe/.