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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Students purchase life size cut out of friend battling cancer

Austin Barker is battling leukemia and not at school, but his friends at Long Beach High have made sure he knows he's not forgotten. They have taken him to several senior events, even prom. Austin Barker is battling leukemia and not at school, but his friends at Long Beach High have made sure he knows he's not forgotten. They have taken him to several senior events, even prom.

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - He was voted Long Beach High senior class favorite and friendliest. Now he is battling cancer. Eighteen-year-old Austin Barker is dealing with more than most his age.

Ten years ago, he lost his mother and just a few weeks ago, his sister was killed in an accident. But throughout the tough times, his friends, teachers and classmates have shown their love and support. 

"Austin is the epitome of being a teenager," Long Beach High School Teacher Vivian Ward said. "He is everything good about the adolescent generation."

Ward can not say enough about her former student.

"I remember last year I said something about needing yard work done. He came and did it, wouldn't take any money. So finally I forced it on him and I come home and it's behind my doorbell," Vivian Ward said.

She is certainly not the only one who has been touched by Austin.

His long time friend Patric Devlin said, "Austin is probably the nicest guy you will ever meet in your life."

"He's been a good friend to all of us," said another friend, Garrett Larosa. "There was never a person he turned down or wouldn't help. And I don't know if he always got that back from everybody, but now I think he knows we like him as much as he loves us."

Barker was diagnosed with Leukemia last semester. Since he's been out of school for treatments, his friends have missed him. So Miriam Ward got creative.

"We wanted our friend back," Ward said, "And so I thought, if he can't be there, I thought we might as well have him there in some way."

Miriam Ward had a life size cardboard cut out of Austin made so he could go to prom and other senior events.

One of Austin's closest friends, Christen Stewart, took him to prom.

"We actually had a slow song dedicated to us. "She's Everything to Me" by Brad Paisley," Stewart remembered. "I cried the whole time."

"To have him with us in some way, rather than not having him at all, that's really what the point of this was," Ward said. "To have us thinking about him, have him in our hearts."

And his friends are all hopeful the real Austin will be back hanging out with them soon.

"It's extremely exciting because he is getting better and he is conquering this monster we call Leukemia."

To help with Austin's medical expenses, friends have sold "LB loves Austin" bracelets and teachers have paid money to wear jeans on Wednesdays. There have also been several blood drives where his friends say so many people showed up, they had to turn some away.

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