Cancer warrior,10, says helicopter ride 'once in lifetime opportunity'

    Caleb Hammond poses while he waits for the parade to begin Wednesday/Beth Waldon

    Caleb Hammond showed interest in life flight practices when he recently toured a helicopter at Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines.

    A 20-minute ride in the same aircraft Wednesday took his aspirations to a whole new level.

    “When he got up in there, that’s one of the first things he said, ‘I think I want to be a pilot now,’” Hammond’s mom, Holly Kempf told KTVO.

    A quick thumbs-up to mom, and they were up, up and away.

    “He was all smiles when we took off,” Kempf said. “I was a little nervous, but he loved it.”

    The 10-year-old Hammond was diagnosed with leukemia in February of 2017. Since then, it’s been an uphill battle, to include a bone marrow transplant in January and copious amounts of chemotherapy. Hammond was admitted to Blank’s for more chemo after he relapsed in June.

    He got a much-needed escape Wednesday afternoon, when he boarded a flight to What Cheer, and just hours later, became the honorary guest in the town’s Fourth of July Parade.

    “This was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Hammond said.

    Hammond got the invitation to be grand marshal in his mother’s hometown parade, but wasn’t sure if he could make it. His doctors caught word of the invitation and arranged to have Hammond flown in by helicopter.

    “It’s a dream come true for any parent,” Kempf said. “To have such an honor, that they would fly him home and it’s an honor for him to be grand marshal of our parade.”


    Family members are hosting a blood drive for Hammond at Life Church in Ottumwa July 21. The event lasts from 8 a.m. until 12 p.m.

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