When fourth grader Carter Jacob walked down my driveway, he was pushing a sparkling new bike. Carter and his older brother, Easton, worked for their parents to earn funds to buy the bike for a 9-year-old boy whose mother has been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. The boy bikes to school and has been riding a bicycle much too small for his size. He asked for a new bike for Christmas. “We wanted to help people who didn’t have as much for the holidays,” said Carter when delivering the bike.
The boys’ gift is part of The Mayday Foundation’s Holiday Healing, delivering gifts to Thurston County families struggling with a parent’s cancer diagnosis. The goal of the adopt-a-family program is to bring some light to the holiday season. It’s one piece of The Mayday Foundation’s mission to provide immediate, practical support to local families when a parent has been diagnosed with cancer and is raising kids at home.
“Trever and I believe that every child, regardless of their economic status or demographic, deserves a chance to lead a successful, comfortable life doing work they are passionate about. When children are dealing with stressful, unpredictable obstacles, sometimes simply knowing their community stands behind them is enough to change their outlook, and ultimately their outcome in life,” said Carter’s mom, Sarah.
The couple own JT Painting Company and Rhino Linings of Olympia, two small businesses located in Thurston County. “We strive to raise our own sons to be self-sufficient, empathetic, accountable and hardworking, in hopes that they will grow up to be individuals who give back to their community. We hope that they grow up with more than we had, but also that they know to appreciate everyday blessings and feel the joy of ‘paying it forward,’” added Sarah.
Carter described some of the chores he completed in order to earn money for the bike. Carter spent almost four hours cleaning at his dad’s office, including sweeping, mopping and vacuuming. Easton chopped a cord of wood to contribute to the cost of the bike. “It just feels good to help other kids,” said Easton, a sixth grader at Griffin School.
“We both come from very humble beginnings, raised by single moms with little support. My father suffered a massive stroke when I was 10 years old, leaving him permanently and severely disabled. It was terrifying for my brothers and me. Even though this left my mom raising three kids on one income, she would spend her own money on clothes and school supplies for her students when they couldn’t afford them,” explained Sarah. “We went without a lot, but I realized we also had a great deal to be thankful for. Having people in our circle that reminded my brothers and I that we were cared for made a tremendous difference in how we were able to accept and overcome challenges.”
“In my nursing career, I’ve seen first hand how staggering cost increases in health care over the past few years have affected patients lives. People from all walks of life are feeling the impact, and it’s not unusual for parents with children still at home to ignore symptoms, for fear of the cost of health care visits. This can lead to a more difficult and costly treatment due the delay in receiving care. No one should have to choose between health care and feeding their children,” added Sarah.
In fact, unexpected medical expenses remain the number one cause of bankruptcy in America. The Kaiser Foundation released a 2016 report detailing how insured Americans coped with paying medical bills. Among the insured with medical bill problems, 75% cut back on spending on food, clothing and basic household items and 63% used up all or most of their savings.
Cancer patients are 2.65 times more likely to file for bankruptcy than people without cancer, as reported in a 2013 Health Affairs journal article. The Mayday Foundation strives to prevent bankruptcy and its ensuing strain on our local community by helping parents and kids stay productive, stable and active participants in the community during and after cancer.
“The Mayday Foundation is something that we feel very fortunate to be able to be a part of. The Mayday Foundation is the perfect illustration of the mindset I wish for every child to have. As a community, we can look out for one another’s needs, and together overcome the unexpected, tough times in life,” said Sarah in summary.
On behalf of the families supported by The Mayday Foundation’s Holiday Healing, thank you to the Jacob family and the more than 40 other donors who gave extra this holiday season.