AURORA, Colo. — A long road, paved with perseverance and prayer will finally end where he began -- home.
"This is a day that all of us--Noble especially--have been waiting for so long," Lisa Mills said. "Just to see the progress that he's made is just unbelievable."
Mills is a former cross country coach at Smoky Hill High School, where Noble Haskell ran before his debilitating accident this past summer. After learning about his injuries--a broken neck causing lagging motor skills and redevelopment--Mills sprung into action.
First, she helped grant him his wish to collect team t-shirts from all of the neighboring cross country teams at the CHSAA cross country state championships in late October. With her help, Noble collected more than 45 shirts at a state collection site and through the mail.
"Everything good can happen from bad things. I just want to give him the best chance possible to live a good life and see the joy behind some of the hardships," she said.
Then, it was the biggest surprise party she could muster on their block in Aurora on the day Haskell was released from the hospital.
"It's like waking up on Christmas morning early," one of his best friends, Jamison Howard said.
"It's amazing! I can't wait until he gets back," Isaiah Escamilla added.
Armed with signs, confetti, and balloons, Haskell's classmates, neighbors, and even family from more than a thousand miles away showed up to welcome him back after five months spent in two different hospitals.
"Today was the day and it's great weather and the kids are able to get out of school--sorry, Smoky Hill! There's no kids in school today! It was awesome to turn the corner and see all of this. Just amazing," his mother Krisi Hantke said.
Haskell, who said he had an inkling there would be some form of a reception, was blown away by the size and spectacle.
"I was like, 'that's a lot of people! They should probably be in school!' But it felt really good that they were all here," he said. "It was definitely a lot more than I was expecting."
Hantke, who stayed with Haskell throughout his treatments at Via Christi hospital in Wichita, Kansas and through his in-patient rehabilitation at Craig Hospital in Englewood, was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support outside of her house.
"The support for Noble has just been so great from the beginning to now and it's just what he needed today, to see his friends, he's seen a few of them, but to see the rest of them. This is a good boost for him," she said. "I'm just so grateful and so thankful. We have so much to be thankful for for Thanksgiving and today is a great day."
Among the dozens of students in the crowd was Haskell's friend, Marco Canas Munoz, who was also injured in the accident in late June. Canas Munoz is back on his feet and walking after suffering serious injuries in the crash.
"It means a lot just knowing that I have more than just my family and the people that were at the hospital supporting me," Haskell said. "It just means that I have all of my brothers and sisters outside rooting me on and cheering me on, so it felt good to finally see them all here."
It's a support that never wavered through their determination to see his mantra, #NobleWillRunAgain, come to fruition.
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