Over 150 People Welcome Third-Grader Back To School After Cancer Battle

She missed 15 months of school fighting leukemia.

Many kids may have been disappointed to go back to school after the holiday break — but this third-grader wasn't one of them. Eight-year-old Bridget Kelley had been absent from school for 15 months because she was battling cancer. On Jan. 2, she was finally able to return to Merrymount Elementary School in Quincy, Mass. 

There to greet her on her first day back were hundreds of students, parents, teachers, police officers, and more. 

"Her classmates wanted to let her know, 'You were out for 15 months, but we absolutely did not forget about you,'' Kristin Healy, a school parent who helped organize the gathering, told TODAY.

Originally, 50 people were invited, but on that morning, there were more than 150. Many held up colorful signs that said things such as, "Bridget the Brave," "Welcome Back Bridget," and "We Missed You." 

"It was almost overwhelming,'' Bridget's mother, Megan Kelley, told TODAY. "She felt so special and so welcomed after such a long and hard road." 

The 8-year-old looked overjoyed as she walked through the supportive crowd of people welcoming her back to school. She threw her arms in the air as if to say, 'Victory!' and had a huge smile on her face. 

Bridget was just starting second grade in September 2016 when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of blood cancer that affects white blood cells. She had gone to the doctor to get a swollen tonsil removed, but an MRI revealed Bridget was suffering from something much worse.

She spent 88 days in the Boston Children's hospital undergoing chemotherapy and surgeries. Last March, she received a stem cell transplant from her 3-year-old sister, Shannon. At home, Bridget had limited contact with others due to her weakened immune system. 

Now, her prognosis is good. While she'll still need to go to physical therapy and have follow-up doctors visits, Bridget is now cancer-free. 

Throughout her journey, the Merrymount community helped to offer support to the Kelleys. "Neighbors helped out with meals, visited Bridget, and made donations to cancer charities," according to the Boston Globe

The welcome back effort was just one more thing they did to show Bridget and her family they care.

(H/T: CBS Boston


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