Boy, 8, Auctions Off His Pet Hog to Raise $19,500 for Best Friend With Brain Tumor

By Louise Bevan
Louise Bevan
Louise Bevan
Louise Bevan is a writer, born and raised in London, England. She covers inspiring news and human interest stories.
August 18, 2021 Updated: September 12, 2021

With massive support from his community, an 8-year-old boy has raised $19,500 by auctioning off the pet hog that he raised for a year to help his best friend, who is battling a brain tumor.

Jesse James Starr of Sullivan, Missouri, has been friends with 7-year-old Claire Calvin since preschool. Saddened with Claire’s diagnosis, Jesse decided he wanted to help by selling the hog he raised at his family’s farm. His parents, Shauna and Joshua Starr, backed him 100 percent.

“Jesse came up with the idea on his own,” Shauna told The Epoch Times. “They are truly the definition of best friends.”

Epoch Times Photo
Jesse at the community fair. (Courtesy of Shauna Starr)

Since Claire got diagnosed, Jesse began meeting her in the Sullivan Primary School parking lot before class to make her smile, continues to bring her breakfast, and even stays inside to play with her during recess.

The cancer, Jesse explained, “made [Claire] have to be in a wheelchair and not be able to run around with me at recess. But,” the 8-year-old added, “it also made me not want to let her fight alone.”

After his mom and dad explained the auction process, Jesse told his parents he had everything he needed at home and wanted to give all proceeds to Claire for her medical bills, instead.

Epoch Times Photo
Jesse and his best friend, Claire. (Courtesy of Shauna Starr)

On the day of the auction, the Starrs made the crowd aware of Jesse’s goal. The bidding at the fair went big; before the family knew what was happening, the bid had reached $52 per pound.

The first buyer, Kathy Ruwwe of Sullivan, bought Jesse’s hog for $16,000 before promptly donating it back to be auctioned again. The next group–Cody and Courtney King, owners of CD King Construction, and Brad and Natalie Henson of Healing Stone Monuments of Sullivan–pledged $3,000.

Epoch Times Photo
Jesse with Claire in a wheelchair. (Courtesy of Shauna Starr)

Jesse was also gifted a check for $500 from David and Amy Danz, bringing his total to $19,500.

Claiming there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd, Shauna marveled, “We knew that our community would step up, but we had no idea that it would bring such a great amount for [Claire’s] medical expenses.”

Jesse said raising the money made him “so happy, because I knew she would be able to get her medicine that will hopefully make her all better, forever and ever … we will always be friends, no matter what.”

Claire’s grateful mom, 39-year-old Rachael Record, told Fox News that her daughter will continue with her clinical trial. Claire is “doing well overall,” and the tumor is smaller than it was at diagnosis.

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Shauna Starr)

Claire was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, in May 2020, after undergoing tests at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. DIPG is a type of cancer that affects children between 5 and 10 years of age.

Tumors occurring on the brain stem can affect a child’s breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and the muscles that control sight, walking, talking, and eating, according to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Shauna, who was an only child, explained to The Epoch Times that she was raised to believe you work hard for what you have in life, no matter what; her husband, she said, did not have a lot growing up, so his family knew how it felt to receive support from others.

“I truly believe that the two different ways we were raised taught us to instill both ways into our children,” she said.

Epoch Times Photo
Jesse with the hog. (Courtesy of Shauna Starr)

Shauna, a nurse, and Joshua, an HVAC foreman, have fostered over 30 children in a 10-year period. Among other giving traditions, they always encourage their kids to donate toys that they no longer want and clothes at Christmas time.

Jesse, the youngest of five siblings, “has a huge heart,” said his mom, and is “always willing to give anything to others to help them.” The 8-year-old’s latest act of generosity has proved his mother right, and Shauna wants to share it with the world.

“To be a true friend, you need to be selfless and help, no matter if it is big or small,” she said. “Sharing something good in the world versus all of the negative is something we need more of in the times right now.”

(Courtesy of Shauna Starr)

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Louise Bevan
Louise Bevan
Louise Bevan is a writer, born and raised in London, England. She covers inspiring news and human interest stories.