Commmunity Champion Spotlight
Where Are They Now?
On a lovely spring day in 2008, Jeffrey got a call from his 4-year-old son’s daycare provider. “She said Jemar is crying and complaining that his left leg hurt,” Jeffrey recalls. “That call changed the way I understand life.”
A fast trip to the pediatrician turned into a nightmarish trip to the hospital, multiple lab tests, and the next day a diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
“I was absolutely certain that he was going to die because I had a friend back in Jamaica who died of leukemia,” says Jeffrey. “I was lost, confused, alone, angry, and totally uneducated about this disease that was trying to take my son from me.”
While Jemar began a rigorous course of chemotherapy, Jeffrey gathered information about helpful organizations, “but I didn’t think they’d do any favors for me.” Then, three weeks, one seizure and two emergency room trips later, he met social worker Beth Ferrari who explained how Friends of Karen could help. “I did not believe it, I couldn’t understand why Friends of Karen cares,” Jeffrey says, “But I told Jemar, ‘I think we have an angel.’ “
Jemar tends to be a shy, quiet boy whose passion is reading, but during his illness he frequently stated that he just wanted to be “a normal child.” Now he has that wish: in late July he completed chemotherapy, went to Camp Sunshine (a sleepaway camp in Maine for children with a life-threatening illness and their families) with his dad for a week, and has just started 2nd grade.
“Because of Friends of Karen, I didn’t have to concentrate on how the bills were killing me, I could concentrate on my son and be there for him,” says Jeffrey. “Friends of Karen kept their word about everything. I’ll never forget the day Beth called and said, ‘Jeffrey, that bill is paid.’ There’s not enough of me to give back for all they did for me and for my son. That’s why I tell everyone to give to Friends of Karen, because of how they gave to us, and that’s how it will be for the rest of my life.”
But Jeffrey did find one way: he spoke at the kick-off dinner for our annual Journey of the Heart, a bike ride through the Berkshire hills over a September weekend. He decided to ride, too. Each rider commits to raising at least $2,500 for Friends of Karen. “But I didn’t have a bike,” Jeffrey says, “so another rider donated one for me! I train every weekend, and now I’m just waiting for that bike ride.”
Thank you from Jemar and from all our Friends of Karen children and their families.