Hockey community rallies around terminally ill Cottage Grove, Minn. player

From the outside looking in, 15-year-old Josh Karels' life seems picture perfect. He jokes with his buddies and loves playing hockey and spending time with his family.

But inside his body remains a silent struggle. Josh is battling a multisystem autoimmune disease doctors don’t even have a name for.

“It wasn't until he was five that we really noticed something was wrong,” “He had a severe case of pneumonia, and an asthma attack and collapsed lung all at once at that point the doctors were like this is too something isn't right so that's when the first diagnosis came of hypogammagloubulemia, the immune deficiency.” Josh’s mother, Katie, says.

From there Josh's life has been a slippery slide downhill. He’s had over 20 different surgeries in the last 10 years, everything from his sinuses to having his entire large intestine and parts of his small intestine removed. Most recently, doctors removed his gall bladder, which was completely destroyed.

Josh's body is seen as foreign by his immune system and little by little is destroying itself.

But the Cottage Grove, Minn. hockey team forward is an honor student at Park High School. His family, friends and the sport are what get him through.

“I don't think of what happened earlier, if I got bad news at the doctor,” Josh says. “I just think of how happy I am to be on the ice,” Josh says.

All who truly know him marvel at how the cottage grove hockey team forward and park high school honor student by the way - embraces life under drastic uncertainty.

“He can definitely take it on better than most of us can,” Payton Schafer, one of Josh’s teammates, says.

Now, everyone around him is making the most of every second they have with Josh.

The hockey community has a special name for Josh. They call him “Joshie Hockey 16,” inspired by Johnny Hockey who played in the NHL. He was even visited this week by a couple of Minnesota Wild hockey players. 

The community has really banded together for Josh. They’ve already raised more than $35,000 through a GoFundMe account to help his parents get him to Boston Children’s Hospital for a second opinion and just maybe get him a longer lease on his life.

Follow Josh's story at or donate to his GoFundMe campaign