PORTLAND - On the 10th floor of Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland’s west hills, it is graduation day. The setting may seem odd, but the kids are too sick to go home.
So this is where they get diplomas no matter their age, then parade through the hallways with a boom box playing graduation music.
Emily Garrett is here from Vernonia. The 11-year-old arrived in April with bone cancer, a tumor wrapped around her spine. She's undergoing chemotherapy.
“I like being at home more,” she said. The cancer has turned her family's life upside down.
“Being a dad and not being able to take away Emily’s pain is hard,” said her father Robert Garrett.
But at Doernbecher, she's able to keep up with her classes and her dad said graduation day picked up her spirits.
“Oh, that's just amazing. Like this morning, she wasn’t feeling well. And you know, she heard it's graduation day and she was able to get up out of bed and do well,” he said.
Sawyer Slack, 18, towers above the others here. He's from Sweet Home and isn't familiar with the big city.
“I'm not used to skyscrapers and elevators,” he said with a grin. He's also battling cancer. Sawyer hopes to graduate with his high school class next year. This is a warm up.
“Ceremony was awesome! We had cake and it was like trick-or-treat in a nice suit,” he said.
The graduation ceremony was organized by three teachers who work for Multnomah Education Service District and serve full time at the hospital. The graduation is an important moment for them too.
“Every student is special to us. And we get to celebrate them today,” said teacher Debbie Mettler.