As managing editor of the Town Crier, I came across hundreds of community fliers for events, dinners and fundraisers, but there was one letter that passed through my inbox that would end up inspiring an entire community into action.
The notice came bundled with a photo copy of a hand written poem from a teenager to his mother who was watching her son battle a rare childhood cancer. Scribbled on the bottom of the poem was a plea from the mother to help her get the word out to the community that she was having a fundraiser to cover the expenses of an experimental surgical procedure that could save her son’s life. The cost was more than a million dollars.
I spent the next few weeks hanging out with the family covering this story and the rest of the stories that followed in its series. Even though this story started off as just another community notice for a fundraiser it ended up being something a lot bigger.
After the story was first published, other major Youngstown media outlets began using this cover story as part of their main graphics in both television and on the web. Anchors would hold the paper up urging people to read the story.
The community rallied behind the mother’s banner of doing all she could to find a cure. Despite all the efforts of the community, they never really came close to raising the million dollars. Jordan never received the experimental procedure, but he did change a entire community. He put on the bravest face I’ve ever seen in the face of such a dismal situation.
We spent the next few weeks together playing video games and hanging out at his home. Jordan had struggled to make relationships beyond his home ever since the cancer treatments forced him into hospitals and into in-home recovery.
I was completely inspired by this young man who lived his life to the fullest, even on days that his chemo would drag him down to new lows. I watched him beat bad guys one by one in the video game, Halo, before turning to me with a big smile. “I like this game” he said pointing at his character. “In this world, I am the hero.”
Jordan didn’t make it through the next surgery that attempted to remove the cancer from the side of his face. When I found out, I found myself reading his poem over and over wondering if I would be able to leave a legacy of courage when faced with unsurmountable odds. I remembered what he told me weeks before while hanging out at his house. I only wish I would have told him, before he left, in my world, he was the hero.
“I am brave and mighty.
I wonder what the future will hold.
I hear good things in the wind.
I see my future bright.
I want to be the best I can at everything.
I am brave and mighty.”
-first stanza of Jordan’s poem to his mother that was published in the first part of my series on Jordan’s battle with cancer.
*unsolicited winner of the 2006 Ohio Public Images Award for excellence in journalism that brought community awareness to people with disabilities.