ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Graduating from a four-year university is no small task, but one Hardin-Simmons University (HSU) student’s academic journey is unlike the others.

For Caden Creach, a Wylie High School graduate and soon-to-be college graduate, finishing college is a dream come true.

Creach, an English major, fell in love with storytelling from an early age after reading superhero comics. He said he felt the idea of superheroes and what they stood for ignited a creative passion in him that he wanted to pursue as an adult.

But pursuing a career as a writer would not be as easy as it sounded, for Creach. Prematurely born, Creach developed Cerebral palsy, a disorder that started at an early age affecting a person’s ability to move and maintain a point of balance.

For Creach, that meant learning to walk with a walker. As he’s aged, he transitioned into a wheelchair. Creach also has trouble controlling fine movements, such as writing with a pencil.

While his physical disabilities initially hindered him, they did not hinder his enthusiasm and passion to pursue higher education.

Creach spent his first two years at Cisco College before transferring to HSU, majoring in English with a minor in theater.

Now, after four long years, he is about to get that long-awaited diploma.

“I’m very excited,” Creach said. “Although, I’m still hesitant about how hot it’s going to be.”

As Creach spoke with KTAB/KRBC, he began to tense up. Over Creach’s right shoulder sat his grandfather, Bruce Doloff, watching carefully as his grandson raised up in his wheelchair.

The former Abilene High teacher retired in 2004, aiming to relieve the stress of Creach’s parents while they were away at work by taking care of him.

“Can I put his foot braces on? He’s tightening up,” Doloff said, reaching to put Creach’s footrests down.

While most grandparents would watch their grandchildren from afar, pushing them to achieve their goals in college, Doloff literally pushed Creach from class to class. Each day that Creach was on campus, Doloff was right behind him, sitting in on every class and taking notes for him.

“When you retire, people’s lives change quite a bit, and they’re looking for a purpose to keep them busy or occupied,” Doloff said. “He has been more than fulfilling that role for me, and it’s been a wonderful feeling for me and gives me purpose to keep going on.”

Doloff said it was his calling to take care of Caden all of these years, beginning back in high school and picking him up everyday after school.

Now, the longtime Air Force Veteran has become a staple on HSU’s campus. Doloff said it took 13 years to get his first degree in the military, and now almost has an English degree to go along with it.

Caden Creach with grandfather, Bruce Doloff

“The professors have been great. So I’ve enjoyed it, probably more than he has. I don’t have to do the homework; I don’t have to worry about grades.” Doloff said jokingly, with Creach replying “Lucky.” 

Creach said their relationship has grown even stronger over the past couple of years at HSU, through the good times and bad. He said, even on his worst physical days, his grandfather’s presence helped give him strength to press on.

“Honestly, I don’t really know where I’d be without him, so I’m very lucky that I have him in the first place,” Creach said.

As Hardin Simmons’ commencement ceremony approaches, Doloff and Creach’s daily academic routine comes to a close, but Creach said he is forever grateful for the role his grandfather played in his life.

“You are one of, if not the most, meaningful person in my life,” the soon-to-be grad said to his grandfather.

They’ll each take the stage at Hardin Simmons’ commencement ceremony, but according to Creach, their time together may not be up quite yet. He said he is still deciding on whether to pursue his Masters degree.