Clad in his personalized cap and gown, cancer-stricken elementary student Walter Herbert accepted his high school graduation diploma with his trademark enthusiasm and smile.
It was a dream made real for the 6-year-old Fairfield Central Elementary student and it drew tears from many in the crowd of 300 who watched Friday evening’s special graduation ceremony set up just for the spirited boy.
“This is an extra special event,” said Central Elementary Principal Karrie Gallo, looking over the audience in the school’s combined cafeteria and auditorium.
Standing along the stage were adults in superhero costumes. Batman, Captain America, Spiderman and more. All favorites of Walter.
“They aren’t the only superheroes in this room,” said Gallo, looking at Walter surrounded by his beaming family.
Walter was happy but tired for reasons beyond his on-going battle with pediatric cancer.
Starting Thursday morning through Friday noon, he had “graduated” through all 12 grades, with each accomplishment celebrated by classmates, teachers, friends and family.
Friday afternoon saw the youngster – who adores superheroes and goes by the nickname “Superbubz” - honored as a special guest at the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice next to Paul Brown Stadium.
“Today was an incredible day,” said Gallo.
There’s been quite a few for the young boy. In recent weeks he has been high-fiving Cincinnati Reds stars, flying in a police helicopter and honored by city officials.
It’s all been a whirlwind for the boy whose courage and unbending optimism has grabbed the hearts of millions across the nation following his adventures.
Despite ailing from his struggle with high-risk, Stage 4 neuroblastoma, Walter told his parents and teachers he wanted to experience graduating through all 12 grades.
The ceremony at Central Elementary was due in large part to Gallo, who oversaw efforts last year of teachers who tutored Walter at home to continue his schooling despite extensive medical treatments.
When she presented Walter with his diploma, he held it up proudly and flashed a smile those that love him know him by.
Fairfield school parent Cindy Thompson never knew of Walter before all the media attention of recent weeks.
She took time to come out and celebrate his extraordinary life.
“In some ways this prompts others to look at each other and support each other,” Thompson said.
The ceremony was followed by music, cake and other snacks befitting of any other high school graduation.
Fairfield Superintendent Billy Smith looked on and said “none of this is surprising.”
“Our community has rallied and embraced Superbubz. It’s really an honor to do this for the family,” Smith said.