Six-year-old Nathan Herber received a hero's welcome Thursday morning when he briefly returned to school at St. Francis of Assisi.
More than 300 of his fellow students lined up in the parking lot to cheer him on as his parents slowly drove in their minivan past them. Nathan has been homeschooling this year while receiving treatment for cancer.
His former preschool teacher, Margi Newkirk, said that before Nathan started doing school at home, he tried not to let his treatment hold him back.
"He's a great kid: always happy," Newkirk said. "Even when he came back to school, he was very unsteady, but he tried to do as much as he could on his own... he tried to run on the playground with everybody else."
The school's principal, Barb Plenge, said the day originally was just going to be Nathan's class greeting him during the procession. But the plans quickly ballooned to include most of the school.
The students waved banners and started cheering "Na-than! Na-than!" as the van rolled by with Nathan waving from inside the open door. Later on in the procession, he peaked his head up through the van's skylight window. Nathan was joined by his parents, his twin brother, Justin, and his older brother Grant, 10.
According to his father, Andy, Nathan was diagnosed with stage 4 T-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2018. On Thursday, he was set to get his final dose of treatment, ending a streak of 900 days -- amounting to roughly 2 1/2 years.
Having the school cheer them on, even for just a little while, was a heart-warming gesture for the family.
"It's very uplifting. We have not been alone at all through this journey," said Nathan's mom, Becky. "It's just such a loving embrace to put closure to a long road and long journey with people who have been with us through the process and deserve to celebrate the end with us."
Nathan is planning on returning to school in the fall.
"It's all he talks about," Becky said.
After the parade ended, the students filtered back into the school. Nathan and his family got out of the van to hug Newkirk. Meanwhile, Plenge carried a large stack of the posters, banners and well wishes in her hands and offered them to Becky.
"I thought you might like to read through these later," the principal said.