Mom with terminal cancer surprised with special graduation for son

Brennan Konopczyk poses with family members, including mother Kelli, at a special graduation ceremony organized by the school and the PTA. (Courtesy: Leander ISD)

CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — A Cedar Park elementary school surprised a mother facing stage 4 breast cancer with a special graduation for her fifth grade son, fearing she may not live to see him walk across the stage.

Kelli Konopczyk was first diagnosed in 2010, before her cancer went into remission. She learned in 2012 it had come back.

“My latest prognosis is I’m likely on very limited time,” Konopczyk said. “It could be a matter of weeks, so, we’re just getting through one day at a time right now.”

Konopczyk’s husband knew she wanted to see her son, Brennan, graduate from fifth grade at Deer Creek Elementary School. He called the PTA President, who in turn got the principal, Brennan’s teachers and other families involved.

“He was just thinking Brennan would get his diploma, maybe walk across a little bridge, shake hands and that’d be it,” Konopczyk said.

Principal Tol Wilhite and the Deer Creek community had another idea. In one week, they planned the ceremony. Five mothers redecorated the school library with everything from backdrops, risers, cake, punch, music and balloons.

But Konopczyk had no idea. Her husband had to come up with a convincing backstory to get her to the ceremony.

“My husband told me that Mr. Wilhite, our principal, called and we needed to go to the school and we had to be there in an hour. I thought, ‘Oh no, what did Brennan do?'”

When they walked into the library, it wasn’t just Brennan graduating early, but four of his best friends.

“They have a group that they call the ‘BFFFF’s.’ There’s five of them. They were all in the same kindergarten class. They have very different interests, but they’ve just stayed that core unit.”

The school wanted Brennan’s friends to be there to support him.

“It was especially special because it felt good to be there with Brennan and help him out for sure,” Quinn Bramwell, Brennan’s friend and 5th grade graduate, said.

“[There’s] no other way to describe it other than special and good and happy,” Elijah Alford, another friend and fellow graduate, said.

Their fellow ‘BFFFF’s’ member Mason Mueller agreed. “When I heard we were going to be doing it together, I thought that it would be a special moment for all of us.”

At first, Konopczyk did not think she could make it through the ceremony emotionally. Her husband was surprised, too.

“Even though he asked about it, I think he was pretty shocked by the amount of attention and love,” Konopczyk said.

After walking across the stage, a slideshow showing the group of five played, bringing back a lot of good memories.

“I knew it was special for all of us to graduate together. Whenever you’d walk up, there’d be a picture of us when we were really young and there was a slideshow of pictures like at Halloween,” Josh Pecci, Brennan’s friend and 5th grade graduate, said.

“I couldn’t ask for any better friends,” Brennan said. “They help each other, not just me, but each other with everything.”

Konopczyk says throughout her illness, the Deer Creek community has wrapped their arms around her family, often helping drive her children to events, making food for her family or mowing their lawn without ever being asked.

“I put on Facebook once that I could really use Starbucks, and you’ve got to be careful what you put on Facebook. Within an hour, I think I had three Starbucks drinks that people brought over.”

“They say it takes a village,” Konopczyk said. “I always say I just love my village here.”

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