The Hope at Hopewell and the Bowl of Bracelets
Many of you know that Jack recently started middle school. Now, middle school is a big transition for anyone and my estimate is that about 99.9% of the adults I talk to hated middle school for a myriad of reasons. This is where kids can become jerks, homework becomes real hard and EVERYTHING else that comes along with becoming a teenager. I must admit that I was concerned about Jack transitioning to a new school and carrying with him all things that NF forces him to carry. I thought he might struggle a lot. I thought he might catch some crap from the "jerks" about his eye or something else. I was wrong. I am happy to say that too. I am not foolish enough to think that he won't experience the challenges that most of us do (and then some) but I thought that maybe some of that would have come already. It hasn't. Which brings me to today and yesterday at Hopewell Middle School.
This month the school is sponsoring awareness and fundraising activities for several charities including CureNFwithJack. We were fortunate to be selected as one of the charities the community would be supporting. Jack was VERY pleased that his new community of teachers, staff and students would be interested in helping him advance the mission of CureNFwithJack by letting us sell hats, shirts and bracelets. "Daddy, this is awesome!" he said. Leading up to the day he was excited. Despite having to get up early and get the material over to the school and set it all up, he was excited. "Pushing the message, Dad!"
I remember being in middle school. We called it Junior High School back then and it was just 7th and 8th grade. I was fortunate that I had a few friends and for the most part went through those years OK. I wonder how well I would have fared if I had the added burden of a chronic, life-threatening disease. I wonder how eager I would have been to stand out if I had such differences in a world where being different can be socially deadly. As confident as I was through the upbringing at home and 2 strong parents (especially my Mom) behind me, I think I would have just tried to get by. Not rock the boat. Hope for the best.
Not Jack. Yesterday Beth and I accompanied him to the school to staff a desk where we were to sell bracelets to raise awareness and dollars for NF. He was there in his shirt the physical embodiment of our foundation, putting himself out there once again to all the world for a greater good. He was interacting with kids that were buying his bracelets, thanking them, conversing with others and generally having a good time. "Hi Jack!" I heard dozens of times. Several kids who had purchased t-shirts in previous years were wearing them in support; others were buying them for the first time. One of the staff members suggested we take the basket and go to the dining hall where lots of kids were waiting for the first bell. "Go sell some in there", he said. So Jack and I went in. I asked if he wanted me to come with him and I could see a hint of trepidation. "Yes, please". So off we went and we sold a bunch. Shortly after we were done selling and I packed up and left and Jack went to class. Beth was off to work. Another day...another step closer. Later in the afternoon Beth called to say that they wanted us to come back tomorrow and sell some more. We had raised an impressive $276 toward the schools monthly goal! Jack insisted we return. And so today, we returned.
Today we had bracelets, t-shirts and hats again. Today, the kids were told we would be there. Today we raised over $400! We had kids who were buying $1 bracelets for $5 and insisting we keep the change "for Jack". We had kids bringing in their change to scrape up a buck so they too could wear a bracelet. We had kids by t-shirts for $10 and pay with a $20 and refuse to take the change. "My Mom said to keep it." It really was amazing today. Probably my most productive hour all month!
The bracelets were going well once again and we were pleased. I asked Jack if we should go back to the dining hall to sell some more. He said "Yea, sure Dad." He grabbed the bowl and I started to follow him in, you know, to be the big supportive Dad. "Mr. Sales Guy". He took a few steps and turned to me and said, "I got this Dad, I can do it myself." He had the bowl of bracelets a few dollars for change and just kept walking. With all the confidence in the world in a new community that he (and we) is hopeful would embrace him and the cause, he walked in and said, "Who wants to buy a bracelet?" It struck me how brave and courageous he is and continues to be in the face of adversity most of us would lie awake at night about. He knows Monday is MRI day. He knows he will likely get good news that his brain tumor is stable. He also knows he could get bad news that it is not stable or a new tumor has grown. He knows this. I know this. But today, that didn't matter. Today he had a bowl of hope and awareness to share. Today he asked his new community to share the bowl and become part of the hope of Hopewell and they did just that.
A special "shoutout" to Ms. Sosebee, Mr LeMoyne, the staff and faculty at Hopewell Middle School and the PTO for organzing this incredible #HopewellStrong month!
Tomorrow there is HOPE and you are among the reasons why. Don't ever forget that fact. EVER
Jake, Beth, Jack, Luke and Grace