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Akron teen gets out of the hospital for star-studded summer

Posted at 9:19 AM, Jun 21, 2017

Sixteen-year-old Caleb Thurman usually spends part of his summer in the hospital. As a patient at Akron Children's Hospital, he undergoes transfusions every four to six weeks to treat juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease. 

This summer, though, he's gotten out of the hospital and into the Big Apple in a star-studded summer. 

Through his involvement with Flying Horse Farms in Mt. Gilead, Ohio, Thurman was one of nine children from across the country who were invited to attend a "Serious Fun" gala hosted by the late Paul Newman's foundation for kids with special needs. 

Flying Horse Farms is one of 16 campuses across the country that has partnered with Serious Fun. The camp serves children with serious illnesses at no cost to their family. 

Thurman has attended the camp for the past six years, an experience that Flying Horse Farm CEO Mimi Dane said transformed Thurman from a shy kid to a teen ready to mingle with celebrities. 

"Camp has totally transformed Caleb from being a shy and quiet kid to being assertive and personable," Dane said. "Choosing Caleb to attend the gala was an easy choice. He’s so positive about his disease and his experience. He really is an inspiring young man.” 

At the gala, Thurman went from Akron teen to Big Apple star - spending time with notable celebrities and public figures.

"I have pictures with Tom Hanks and Jimmy Fallon," Thurman said. I got to speak with President Bill Clinton. I got to speak briefly with Hillary Clinton. I got to perform at the Serious Fun Gala in New York and that's where I met all of the celebrities."

After the gala, Thurman and his mother, Charice Fort, made the trip back to Akron.

Their time spent in Ohio was short-lived after receiving a call from The Tonight Show to make an appearance in a celebrity music video with Jimmy Fallon. Thurman performed alongside eight other "Serious Fun" attendees, singing Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" with Jimmy Fallon, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and The Roots. 

Going into this senior year at Firestone High School in Akron, Thurman won't have a shortage of stories to tell during classroom conversations about what students did this summer. 

Thurman has also represented Akron in the nation's capitol, attending Family Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. in 2013. 

"One of his doctors, Mary Toth, recommended Caleb and his mom as people who would be wonderful to go to D.C. with our government relations director," said Holly Pupino, public relations representative for Akron Children's Hospital. "They are outspoken and had a good experience with the hospital... Caleb was a rockstar."