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Community rallies behind UW-RF student who is battling cancer

Caleb Peterson stands with his high school friend Jared Fern, at a benefit held in Peterson's honor on Jan. 23.

While most of Wisconsin was cheering on the Packers during the game Jan. 23, Caleb Peterson had his own rally of fans in attendance at a benefit held for him at Badlands Golf Course.

Peterson's mom, Julie, said there was a huge outpouring of support at the benefit, "I am not sure we have an accurate count, but it was standing room only after the Packer win!"

"The support from all of the communities, our church and many-many friends was overwhelming. People drove from all over Wisconsin and Minnesota to attend. Caleb really enjoyed visiting with most of them," Julie said.

The money raised at the benefit will go toward Caleb's medical expenses and college tuition.

The entire Peterson family is thankful for everyone who has been there for them as Caleb continues his battle with cancer. "Thank you is not enough to express how we feel about this outpouring of support from everyone," Julie said.

Although the benefit was a success and the Packers won on Sunday, Caleb received some bad news Monday morning.

The results of an MRI on Jan. 24 showed that the tumor in Caleb's brain is getting larger.

Julie wrote a journal entry on Caleb's Caring Bridge site on Jan. 25 saying:

"The chemo in November and December did not shrink it. The MRI was sent to Mayo for further evaluation. The growth could be due to the actual tumor growing, or to some dead tumor tissue swelling (necrotic tissue), or another mass of some sort. Our next options may be a different chemo regimen, surgery, gamma knife radiation or proton radiation, or the doctors might have something else."

Julie said waiting for answers is difficult and frustrating for Caleb.

Despite the disheartening news, Caleb is continuing on as normal as possible. He started his spring semester at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls on the Jan. 25, and explained his situation to his professors.

"They are all agreeable to him using a computer in class. Usually this is not allowed, but considering that his fine motor skills, including writing, are diminishing with the tumor growth/swelling, they are going to allow it. We give thanks for that!"

The Peterson family asks that the community keeps them in their prayers. Julie said:

"I need some peace about the situation, and to remember it is God's plan and God's timing for everything, Gary needs reassurance that Caleb is in God's hands as a dad he often wants to "fix" things, Leah and David are newly married - but this affects them as well, Josh and Eman are working hard in high school - and just need something to be normal for them. Caleb would like answers, healing, peace, comfort and guidance to make the right decisions, strength to make it through this part of the journey, and rest ... much rest so his body can heal and rejuvenate."

Upcoming events

• Caleb will be a special guest at the Hudson Air Affair Feb. 4-6. He is invited to participate in numerous activities throughout the weekend with the balloon pilots.

• Caleb is participating in the Relay for Life event at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, March 25-26.

• Although Caleb does not currently have any speaking engagements planned, he is open to talking with school and community groups.

T-shirts and bracelets

There are still T-shirts for $10 and awareness bracelets for a minimum donation of $2 for sale. The bright green T-shirts say, "Cancer Sucks" on the front and "Hope! Believe! Live!" on the back. The bracelets are silver and say "Hope! Believe! Live!" The T-shirt money goes toward Caleb's medical account and the bracelet money goes toward Caleb's Relay for Life event at River Falls in March.

For more information on T-shirts or bracelets e-mail

To donate money or to join Caleb's Relay for Life team go to, click on the Colleges and Youth tab on the left side of the screen, type in River Falls in the event tab, then look up Mary Virnig Conquer Cancer Club under the team listing on the right side of the screen.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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