Carter Kettner, a 6-year-old boy who inspired suburban residents with his brave fight against a malignant brain tumor, died early Wednesday morning at his Huntley home.
Carter was diagnosed in February 2009 with an inoperable tumor in his brainstem. His cheerful resolve as he repeatedly beat the odds doctors gave him prompted many to rally around his family, organizing fundraisers and events enabling Carter to live out his dreams.
Huntley officials, firefighters and police officers hosted Carter Kettner Day on Aug. 7, 2009. Just days earlier, Carter was sworn in as a Bartlett police officer and got to spend the day riding in a squad card, eating chow with firefighters and making a fake arrest.
His adventures continued later that month with a trip to New York City to see "Mary Poppins," and a visit to Wrigley Field, where he threw out the first pitch at a Cubs game.
In October he traveled to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, where Carter spoke with astronauts in the International Space Station and became an honorary astronaut.
On Wednesday, Carter's mother, Cinnamon, said the outpouring of kindness helped her family get through the months of painful chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries.
"We couldn't have done it without everybody else," Cinnamon said. "It was miraculous the way people pulled through for us. I've never seen anything like it."
Carter was treated at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis last year and later at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
He was able to start kindergarten at Mackeben Elementary School in Algonquin until his illness forced him back into the hospital in October. Doctors allowed Carter to return home about three weeks ago so that he could die there.
After lying unconscious for the past nine days, Carter passed away at 1:52 a.m. Wednesday as his parents sat on either side of him.
"We stayed awake and just watched his breaths," Cinnamon said. "He was in no pain."
She added: "I'm really happy that he's dancing and laughing and singing and telling knock-knock jokes right now. He's been embraced by God, and he is absolutely pain- and cancer-free."
Carter is survived by his parents, Joe and Cinnamon, and his 3-year-old brother, Bowen. Funeral services are pending and will be held at St. Mary Catholic Church in Huntley.
The Einstein Academy, 747 David Road, Elgin, is hosting "Carter's Carnival," a fundraiser for the Kettner family, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The indoor event will feature games, food, facepainting and other family activities. Call the school at (847) 697-3836 for more details.