12-Year-Old Boy Works Odd Jobs So He Can Buy Best Friend A Gravestone

There are many touching tales of best friends for life and all that they do for each other, but here’s a story of a magical bond of friendship between two young boys that exceeded the bindings of “for life.”

K.J. & Kaleb: Best Friends Forever

Kaleb Klakulak and Kenneth “K.J.” Gross became fast friends in the second grade. Instead of throwing balls around, running around a playground, and doing all the outdoor things most kids do, Kaleb opted to spend his time with a friend who’s playtime was mostly limited to indoor activities.

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As an infant, K.J. had been diagnosed with leukemia. K.J.’s spent much of his childhood in pain, in hospitals, and recouping from multiple surgeries. K.J. had a bone marrow transplant from his sister, but he relapsed three years later and had to have another bone marrow transplant from an unknown donor.

While told he was free of cancer in 2015, the chemotherapy had already taken a harsh toll on K.J.’s young body. He was told he had congestive heart failure.

K.J.’s mom, LaSondra "San" Singleton, recalled how happy K.J. was when he came home from school to tell her he’d made a new friend. She said that he told her daily how she just had to meet Kaleb. By the end of the school year, she met Kaleb and his mom.

She said they all instantly “clicked,” calling the two boys kindred spirits that were more like brothers than friends. Over the years, the boys would spend a tremendous amount of time together watching television, playing video games, and such. It would be short lived happy times, however.

K.J.’s health took a downward spiral after being diagnosed with two leaky heart valves and told he’d need a heart transplant to survive. He eventually had to be moved into the hospital long-term. Doctors placed a HVAD pump in his heart, but the device failed to help.

He also had to have dialysis for his failing kidneys. The once bright and smiling K.J. was in ICU and sinking into a depression. So, hospital staff bent the rules and allowed his best friend Kaleb to visit.

Despite being unable to communicate due to being intubated, Kaleb and K.J. communicated. They played video games and watched television in ICU. K.J. even had a special request. He wanted to paint, and that they did for an entire day. He painted a picture for everyone he loved and then slept for three days. According to his mom, K.J. knew the end was nearing.

At the tender age of 12, congestive heart failure claimed K.J.’s life. His mom shared that she had discussed life support with him and told him that the decision was up to him. If he wanted to fight, she’d be there. If he needed to stop, she’d be there, too. 

In his final moments, K.J.’s mom asked if he still wanted a heart, a question she’d asked multiple times and always received a “yes” to, but this time K.J. didn’t reply. Instead, he mouthed that he couldn’t breathe. The ventilator was at its highest setting, and his mom instinctively knew her son had been through enough.

Kaleb’s mom texted Ms. Singleton to ensure all was good for their normal weekly visit. She immediately replied that it was time for Kaleb to say his goodbyes to K.J. The decision had been made to remove K.J. from life support. It was the first day of May when Kaleb said his final goodbye to his best friend, but that’s not where this story ends. 

After K.J. passed away, his mom, who had given up her job as a cafeteria worker to be with K.J. full-time and was a single mother of six, couldn’t afford to purchase a headstone for his grave at Detroit’s Elmwood Cemetery. As you can imagine, not having a marker for your child’s final resting place took a huge emotional and mental toll on this grieving mom.

Kaleb sprung into action on behalf of his best bud’s mom. He collected bottles, did odd jobs, and he and his mom created social media pages to solicit donations via PayPal. Kaleb had raised half of his $2,500 goal when he excitedly brought the money to his best friend’s mom with flowers and an apple pie.

According to the New York Times, the videos and news coverage helped the story go viral late last year, which resulted in over 3,000 contributions on the PayPal fund account Kaleb and his mom, Kristy Jo Hall, set up for Ms. Singleton.

Do you have a friendship that you think is beyond best friends for life? We’d love to hear your thoughts on Kaleb and K.J.’s story, and feel free to use the comment section to offer any of your own personal stories. Remember, spreading the word about stories like this provides them power to accomplish amazing things.