This week a young warrior died after nearly a yearlong battle with cancer. Thursday, he was remembered as the school he attended.
There's a poem hanging on the wall of the Cherokee Nation Child Development Center about Kai McAlpin.
“There once lived a fierce warrior whose heart was strong and true. He had blond hair of golden locks and eyes of icy blue,” it reads.
McAlpin went school there from the time he was six weeks old until last May when he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
“He was very active and he loved playing outside and he loved speaking the language,” said teacher Annie Page.
He also loved swords and had the heart of a fighter - which is why he's known as Warrior Kai.
This week, Kai traded his sword for a set of angel wings. He wasn’t even three years old yet, but age doesn’t determine impact.
The poem reads, “This warrior he was mighty, though he was small. The short time he was on this earth was a blessing to us all.”
Thursday, Kai's school honored him with a balloon release.
“It was a great tribute,” said Kai’s father, Gary McAlpin. “To a little warrior who showed so much spirit.”
Gary wiped away tears as he watched the balloons soar into the sky.
“I just imagine Kai flying with them. He's flying. And that's really special,” he said.
Each balloon had something special tied to it - two pictures of Kai and how to get in touch with our state legislators.
“Our precious children don't have to suffer like Kai did,” Gary said.
Kai's dad said less than four percent of federal funding goes toward childhood cancer research. His mission is to make sure children get more.
Bringing change to that will be Kai’s lasting impact.
“Those beautiful golden locks and those eyes as blue as the summer sky are branded on our hearts forever...our hero...our Warrior, Kai,” the poem reads.
A public memorial service for Kai will be Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at the Cherokee Nation Sequoyah School gym.