In June of 2011 I was thrilled to meet my Godson Jake. I was honored to be asked to be his Godmother and couldn’t wait to take on this very important role. You see, Jake was born with Down Syndrome and I knew that he was going to need me to be strong for him. I’ll never forget visiting him at the hospital; he was the cutest baby in the world, lots of dark spikey hair and big bright eyes. His health and future had so many unknowns, but I knew from the moment I laid eyes on him, he would touch others in a special way.
In March of 2012 Jake was diagnosed with Leukemia. This came to a huge shock to all of us, especially his parents. Instantly our family came together to help out; cooking meals, taking shifts at the children’s hospital, taking shifts taking care of Jake’s older brother, etc. Jake’s chemotherapy has been rigorous, yet he is strong and has a wonderful spirit. His first birthday was celebrated in the hospital with a small gathering of immediate family. You can bet I was there….wouldn’t have missed that first birthday for anything. Despite the circumstances we sang, presented him with gifts, and laughed joyfully as he ate his first piece of cake.
Jake has become quite the celebrity at the hospital. When I spend time there, I watch as nurses, doctors, volunteers all stop in just to say “hi.” There’s just something about his smile and big bright eyes that draw you in. Despite all of his chemotherapy, complications, fevers, discomforts of chemo side effects, Jake marches on and lights up the room with his smile.
This past Sunday, I, along with some very close friends, hosted a fundraiser for Jake. We teamed up with the Rob Branham foundation and held a zumbathon event to raise money for my little man. The experience was simply amazing.
In a world with so many horrible things happening each and every day, it is easy to forget how wonderful people can be. You turn on the news and are bombarded with stories of murder, theft, and violence; it’s as if we become numb and just expect humans to act in this way.
During the weeks leading up to our fundraiser, my view of people has been reborn. Through this one simple event, I watched as complete strangers opened up their hearts to helping Jake and my family. Whether it was donating raffle gifts, refreshments, time, talents, or monetary gifts, people in our community shared themselves without thinking twice.
People from all across the state came to participate. Folks came for various reasons; they too had/have a family member with Leukemia, they heard Jake’s story and wanted to help, they like zumba, some know my family and wanted to show their support. Our event grew larger and larger as the weeks leading up to the event went by. We encouraged people to wear orange, the color to show your support for those effected by Leukemia. I knew the event was going to be great when I went to purchase my own orange shirt at a local sporting goods store and the cashier asked “what’s going on with all the orange this week…. We’re sold out…something about an event for Jake!”
And so the day of the event came, and people began to pour in. Parading their orange with pride and style. Dozens of raffle donations, a variety of refreshments, and an amazing group of zumba instructors. At one point my husband said to me “do you know all of these people?” My answer was a honest “No, I know some of these people, but most of these folks I’ve never met before. But suddenly I feel like I know them all.”
The power of people coming together to help one another is amazing. For two hours participants came together to love, support, and help Jake. During our “cool down” song, I stood on the stage, looking out at all the people in orange and felt peace in my heart. I remembered that first time I held Jake, looking into his eyes, knowing in that moment he was going to touch people, and he did. He brought a group of people together to share an amazing experience that was kind, loving and inspiring. Jake brings out the best in people and I know that he will continue to do so.
Here is a link to our cool down song that we used at our event. Jake’s mom picked out the song because it explains exactly what her heart is feeling.
Turn it up and feel the inspiration.
Please visit the Rob Branham Foundation at www.robsfoundation.org