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‘The absolute sweetest friendship’: Boy, 8, sells hog to help friend with cancer

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 2:19 AM CDT
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SULLIVAN, Mo. (KMOV) - Two children from Missouri are a reminder that true friendship really is priceless, as an 8-year-old boy sold his hog to raise money for his sick friend.

Jesse Starr, 8, worked to get bidders to open up their wallets and buy his hog at the Meramec Community Fair in Sullivan, Missouri. Right next to him in the auction barn was his best friend, 7-year-old Claire Calvin.

“They have the absolute sweetest friendship,” said Rachel Record, Claire’s mom.

Jesse Starr, 8, and Claire Calvin, 7, are best friends. To help with Claire's cancer treatment,...
Jesse Starr, 8, and Claire Calvin, 7, are best friends. To help with Claire's cancer treatment, Jesse auctioned off a hog he had raised for a year and donated the money to her family.(Source: Family photos, KMOV via CNN)

But Jesse and Claire’s bond was recently rocked by heartbreaking news. In the spring of 2020, when Claire was just 6 years old, something seemed off.

“Her dad noticed she was a little bit clumsier than normal, and then, the right side of her face started to droop,” Record said.

Extensive testing at St. Louis Children’s Hospital found a tumor on Claire’s brain stem, and she was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, known as DIPG.

“It slowly starts deteriorating the child’s muscle movement and neuro system, but their mind stays totally fine,” Record said. “Even though she has difficulty talking, she knows exactly what she wants to say. It’s just the path to get it out that’s tough.”

The diagnosis meant the two friends were suddenly facing the very worst.

“At diagnosis, children with DIPG typically have a 9 to 12 month life expectancy,” Record said.

But thanks to a clinical trial, Claire is beating the odds, and MRIs show her tumor is shrinking. It will continue to take a lot of work, doctors’ appointments, medicine and therapy to see further results.

So, Jesse decided to sell the hog he spent the last year raising and donate all the profits to Claire. When it was his turn at the auction, the bids kept getting higher and higher, with the community stepping in to help the two friends.

The underweight hog finally sold to Kathy Ruwwe for $16,000, ten times its typical worth of $1,600.

“To be able to help was kind of a blessing,” Ruwwe said, who also gives credit to whoever she was bidding against, noting they were just as committed to help the pair of friends.

Ruwwe then told the auctioneer to sell the hog again. Two local businesses, CDKing Construction and Healing Stone Monuments, came together to buy it for $3,000.

In the end, Jesse had raised a total of $19,000 that would all go to Claire and her family.

“Never in a million years did I ever anticipate it going the way it did,” Record said.

Even so, for Jesse and Claire, it was never about the money but instead about being friends forever.

“Friends are friends, and they need to be friends for life. When your friends need help, that’s what you do: you help them,” said Jesse’s mom, Shauna Starr.

Copyright 2021 KMOV via CNN Newsource. All rights reserved.