Sunapee students rally around Riley

By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader
November 28. 2017 9:00PM
Students line the street outside Sunapee Middle-High School on Tuesday in honor of Riley Kelleher. (Courtesy)

RILEY KELLEHER

SUNAPEE — People with cancer say treatment for the disease often leads to feelings of isolation or loneliness.

And then there’s Riley Kelleher.

Kelleher, 14, watched as more than 400 of his fellow Sunapee students and teachers lined the streets outside Sunapee Middle-High School on Tuesday to watch him head off to his 14th — and hopefully final — chemotherapy treatment at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, escorted by local police and fire vehicles.

“It meant a lot to Riley,” said dad Mike Kelleher. “He’s not someone who seeks out the spotlight, but really enjoyed the sendoff. Everyone in the community has been so supportive.”

Riley was diagnosed in April with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare type of cancerous tumor that grows in bones or the soft tissue around bones, such as cartilage or nerves. It usually affects people from the ages of 10 to 20 and has a high cure rate.

Kelleher said since then his son has undergone lengthy operations and 13 chemo treatments.

“It’s been a long process, but the outlook right now is good,” said Kelleher. “I was talking to Riley on Monday and he said he couldn’t wait for chemo. That sounded strange, but he said it’s because he knows it’s the last one.”

Sunapee Middle High School (SMHS) Principal Sean Moynihan said Kelleher, a ninth-grader at the school, has kept up with his studies through the use of an iPad and online courses.

“The students have been very supportive of him, wearing shirts that say ‘Riley’s Squad’ and ‘#Riley’,” said Moynihan. “They know this is his last treatment, and they wanted to do something special. We only have about 460 or so students, and they all went out and held signs and cheered him on as he went by.”

“He’s such a great kid,” said Jon Reed, a technology integrator at SMHS who coached Riley in soccer and ski jumping. “They are a good, good family, and everyone is pulling for him.”

VIDEO: Students rally for Riley Kelleher. Video courtesy Jonathan Reed.



Mike Kelleher said he didn’t tell Riley about the planned sendoff ahead of time.

“I knew as soon as I saw the smile on his face he was enjoying it,” said Kelleher.

Riley has been unable to attend school with his classmates since school opened this fall, but his dad hopes that will change after the Christmas break next month.

“It’s hard, because he couldn’t be exposed to germs during his treatment,” said Kelleher. “He was able to go to some sporting events, because those were outside, but the plan is for him to be in the classroom after the holidays.”

After this latest round of chemo — expected to last about 5 days — Riley will have periodic checkups and 10 sessions of radiation on his chest. Kelleher said the current outlook for his son’s health is good.

“It’s a rare cancer, so we know anything can happen, but we are hopeful this is it,” Kelleher said Tuesday. “You take each day as a blessing, and thank everyone for all their support.”

pfeely@unionleader.com


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