In May of 2017, senior in high school Nick Garrett crossed the stage at Searcy High School in Searcy, Arkansas. Robe flowing and cap donned, Nick, surrounded by similarly dressed classmates, received his diploma in the high school auditorium. But this wasn’t Searcy High School’s official graduation ceremony. Instead, it was a special ceremony for Nick, who had been diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in January. His treatment caused him to miss the graduation ceremony, so the counselors at Searcy High School planned a special moment to give Nick his diploma.
“This small act turned into a larger event as many of my classmates and other students found out and attended the mini-graduation,” Nick said. “A large portion of the school staff also attended and it became a standard graduation…The mini graduation was awesome because it allowed me to see my friends from school, some of whom I hadn’t seen for months. It also served as an escape from my current situation.”
That situation included multiple rounds of chemotherapy, fighting minimal residual disease, and discovering that Nick’s sister, Brittany (pictured) was a perfect bone marrow match for Nick. While staying on the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Texas Children’s Hospital, Nick connected with his friends through Xbox Live but greatly missed spending time with them in person. The basketball hoop and Battleship game inside the welcome basket from His Grace Foundation helped him pass those difficult hours.
By the end of 2017, life started to look a bit brighter for Nick as he returned home to Arkansas in time for Christmas. In March of 2018, he went on a belated senior trip to Washington D.C. and Gettysburg. And that July, he enjoyed Make-A-Wish trip to Pearl Harbor.
Now, Nick has completed his first year of college at Arkansas Tech University. A history major, he will be a junior halfway through the coming school year thanks to college credit hours he received in high school. He has a near-perfect GPA, and volunteers for the White County Historical Society in Searcy and The Wings of Honor Museum in Walnut Ridge. Nick recalls his time on the BMTU like living in a small hotel for a month, where the hotel workers are kind and care about you, but you’re not allowed to leave “except to walk the horseshoe shaped floor or to play games like air hockey in a game room until you get better.”
That season of life happily in the past, Nick now walks the sidewalks of campus and hallways of classrooms, a bright future ahead.