DETROIT, Michigan -- A boy who brought light to the darkest moments of a young heart disease patient's life is now shining on his friend's grieving mother.
KJ Gross and Kaleb Klakulak bonded over video games and painting, all while sharing inside jokes like many 12-year-old boys do.
Their friendship grew after KJ twice defeated cancer. But six years after overcoming the odds, as WXYZ reports, KJ and his family was struck by news of another challenge in January: he was suffering from congestive heart failure.
Pent up in the hospital, things looked dim for young KJ, that is, until Kaleb showed up to play.
Kristy Hall, Kaleb's mother, said their times together were bittersweet.
"I was sad because I was going to miss KJ, because I love him, but I was also sad because my son was losing his friend," Kristy said, "and my friend was losing her son."
San Singleton, KJ's mother, recalls her son's final day on earth.
"They had to increase the settings on his ventilator to the highest, and he mouthed the words to me that he couldn't breathe," San said. "I said, 'It's over.'"
A memorial to KJ can be found in San's backyard, but because she had to quit her job and is now trying to raise her five surviving children, she wasn't able to buy a gravestone for KJ's burial plot.
That's where Kaleb stepped in to help, collecting bottles, performing odd jobs, and even starting a PayPal fundraiser online in order to raise $2,500.
"He collected over $900, and that's not including the bottles," San said.
The reason for all his hard work? "I didn't want his mom to go to an unmarked grave," Kaleb said.
San said she and Kaleb's family picked out a headstone for KJ together, and are hoping to see it installed at the cemetery by Christmas.
"I knew that they loved my son when he was alive, but I really really know that they love my son, because even in his passing, they're still trying to help me," San said.
12-year-old boy raises $2,500 to buy best friend's gravestone