An act of kindness. We wish Jacob all the best.

Bemidji High School holds early graduation for senior battling cancer, facing surgery
By Kyle Farris Today at 12:17 p.m.

BEMIDJI — He probably was smiling.

The people who know Jacob Caliri say he does that a lot, even on days a band doesn’t play in his honor. “He’s so happy,” his mom said. “All the time.”
The smart money says Jacob didn’t keep a straight face Monday. Not on a day that was all about him. There’s just no way he sat with a scowl during the graduation song and its slow, steady sweeps. Or during his friend’s speech. Or during his walk across the stage–punctuating each handshake with a sharp bow–toward a diploma he got six weeks early.

Some things a mask can’t hide.

Jacob was diagnosed a few weeks ago with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. His mom, Nikki, found the tumor March 7. The cancer right now is confined to his cheek and jaw–an unusual part of the body for an unusual form of cancer to take hold. His surgery, an invasive one, is scheduled for Thursday. After that it’s more chemotherapy.

“We’re just doing what they tell us,” Nikki said. “I don’t want to put any expectations into his mind.”

Bemidji High School made Monday all about Jacob when his teachers and friends found out he might not be able to attend the senior class graduation June 4.

He had fulfilled every requirement to graduate. But his surgery had originally been scheduled for that week.

So the band practiced. And the choir.

Jacob’s classmates bought T-shirts with a logo like Superman’s. “Super Jacob,” they read.

And someone arranged an appearance by a professional Batman, the kind that specializes in birthday parties and hospital visits. Complete with a street-legal Batmobile.

“I was excited,” Jacob said.

“I think he’s overwhelmed,” Nikki said. “In a good way.”

They let Jacob walk into the auditorium last, so the applause would be loudest. His teachers wore caps and gowns, so he wouldn’t be alone. And his friends held up signs they had made, and waved them so he would see.

David Stortroen’s had a picture of Sonic the Hedgehog, Jacob’s favorite–“because he’s fast, and he’s powerful, and he helps save people from evil,” the new graduate said.

Johnny Anderson’s had messages he had written for his friend. “You make people happy,” one read.

Johnny started to cry.

“I’m going to miss him.”

When the choir started to sing, Jacob ran up to sing with them.

When it was over, he gave about 20 bows.

When he got his diploma and moved off stage, he took off his cap and threw it.

Nikki didn’t ask doctors the stage of her son’s cancer.

Osteosarcoma usually affects the arms and legs, and its presence in Jacob’s chin and jaw complicates an already complicated process. He wears a surgical mask now, muffling his voice.

Nikki tries not to plant expectations in Jacob’s mind, because she doesn’t know what to expect herself.

“Good thing it’s isolated,” she said.

Jacob’s friend, Tanner Garrigan, gave the graduation speech. They acted together in “Shrek,” the school’s fall musical. He said Jacob had the script memorized–everyone’s lines, even stuff like pages numbers.

“His mind is his superpower,” Garrigan said.

At the end of the ceremony Batman gave Jacob a bag with comic books and trading cards.

Then they came together for a photo, and the hero of the day took off his mask.

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