'Ninja Warrior' fight against cancer to honor South St. Paul student

Cancer took a South St. Paul elementary school student, but his classmates are choosing to keep his battle alive instead of dwelling in their loss.

Jermier Shorter came to the Kaposia Education Center as a kindergartner already wracked with cancer.

Two years later, he had left a lasting impression on his classmates.

"He was always just a great friend to everyone," fifth grader Marley Murdell Cross told FOX 9.

"I just remember that he was a really kind person and how funny he was," said fellow fifth grader Jackson Dybsetter.

He was a second grader when his close friend died. Jackson said he didn’t believe his parents when they told him.

"I cried, definitely," he said.

But when grief became an obstacle, Jackson and the rest of Jermier’s classmates chose to jump it, just like they think he would’ve.

Named for the obstacle course on the popular TV show, the gym and the Ninja Warrior unit especially, was Jermier’s favorite place in the school, but it doesn’t look the same as it did then. Air barrels and a lot of the other equipment is brand new because his classmates decided to Fight Cancer Like Ninja Warriors.

During their last year at Kaposia, the fifth graders came up with the idea to raise money for new Ninja Warrior PE equipment to leave a legacy for Jermier.

It’s grown beyond what anyone but the kids believed it could, and they’re sure Jermier would love it.

"He definitely would’ve liked the monkey bars and the mountain," Jackson said. "We upgraded the mountain a little bit. He definitely would’ve liked that."

They’ve raised around $18,000 already and on course for more – with some of the money going towards the new equipment and the rest going to cancer research and helping patients Fight Cancer Like a Ninja Warrior.

"The kids started out wanting to remember their friend, Jermier, and they’ve gone above and beyond to bringing it to help other people," said PE teacher Brenda Johnson.

This Class of 2030 got an early lesson that life can be short, like Jermier’s, and tough, like the Ninja Warrior ropes, but they can accomplish a lot when they roll with it and keep climbing.

"It just makes me feel proud that we could do something like this," Marley said.