8-year-old CJ Hardy has learned a lot from karate – he takes lessons at Tiger-Rock Martial Arts in West Knoxville.
“Like this!” he said, throwing a punch in the air.
He also learned this mantra: “I chose to be a positive part of my community by using the tenants outside of the academy."
Lately, CJ is putting that phrase to good use, and teaching some of the adults in his life, as well. Recently, his best friend and classmate at Rocky Hill Elementary, Lucas Jones, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of childhood cancer that begins in the leg muscles.
Lucas’s father, Robert, remembers holding his son on his lap when the surgeon called with the diagnosis.
“I was instantly overcome with emotion and fear,” he said. “With my little boy on my lap, I turned my head from him I didn’t want him to see—“
“But Lucas was so brave,” said Lucas's mother Karina Jones. “He turned to his dad and said 'We’re going to be OK.'”
Lucas is fighting the disease and undergoing a regime of chemo and proton therapy. But those treatments caused his hair to fall out.
When CJ heard about that, he knew what to do.
“We found out that Lucas lost his hair, and then I said I wanted to shave my hair because I didn’t want him to feel alone,” CJ said.
So they did. CJ and his mom streamed the whole thing on Facebook Live. The video has pulled in hundreds of shares and thousands of views – but most importantly, Lucas and his family saw it.
There were some tears that day.
“It stopped me in my tracks,” said Robert Jones. “Lucas gasped, covered his mouth with one hand, and just patted his bald head with the other. He didn’t have any hair at the time, he was just grinning the whole time from ear to ear.”
“Some people get embarrassed, and I didn’t want him to get embarrassed,” CJ said.
It was a simple gesture at one of the most trying times for the Jones family – Lucas had just begun treatment, and his suppressed immune system meant he had to be isolated from his friends.
“It means so much to know somebody cares about you and has empathy for your situation,” Robert Jones said.
“To see a child do something like that for a friend, without giving it a seconds’ hesitation, it speaks volumes,” said Jessica Hardy, CJ’s mom. “It speaks volumes.”
Now, even though they may not get to spend much time in the same room, CJ hopes that Lucas knows he’s there for him.
“I didn’t want him to feel alone,” he said again.
CJ’s family is also organizing a fundraiser for Lucas and his family to help cover medical costs. The event is scheduled for 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25, at Tiger-Rock Martial Arts, 9111 B Executive Park Dr., Knoxville, TN 37923. There will be food, games and a 'kickathon,' where participants can collect pledges for the number of kicks they can complete in a set time period.
(© 2016 WBIR)