Eleven-year-old, sixth grader Jacob Goeders from Mountain View is an American Cancer Society ambassador for courageous Bay Area kids combating cancer. Jacob, who is nearing the finish of a three-and-a-half-year treatment program for leukemia, enjoyed Mother’s Day with his parents, Sherry and Todd; eight-year-old brother, Jordan; and about 580 other kids and their families, all treated to a day away from cancer at the 24th annual Courageous Kids Day at California’s Great America amusement park.
“It’s really fun. We went on rides and had some stuff to eat. I met people I know through the hospital and Facebook,” says Jacob. His Facebook page, The Leukemia Slayer, has more than 7,600 fans. Jacob offers some hard-won advice to other kids.
“If you have cancer, then you have to speak up for yourself and tell the doctor if it hurts or doesn’t feel normal. Think positive. Keep your sense of humor. You need a special trick to get through pokes,” he says. Jacob’s trick?
“Close your eyes and don’t look at the needle.”
“I can see how much fun the kids are having outside a medical setting,” says volunteer Jasan Zimmerman, himself a childhood cancer survivor. “To be able to invite the whole family so they can have a great time is just amazing for me to watch. The kids light up when they get a [Courageous Kids] wristband or a tatoo.”
At arts and crafts tables, kids colored fabric squares to be made into Courageous Kids Quilts, which will be auctioned to raise funds for cancer research. Other kids made Mother’s Day cards or friendship bracelets.
Peanuts characters and celebrities posed for photos with the kids: Miss Santa Clara 2013, Molly Crawford; Miss Santa Clara Outstanding Teen 2013, Krista Buzolich; Miss Silicon Valley Outstanding Teen 2013, Tiani Hernandez; American Idol contestant and Bay Area native DeAndre Brackensick; Oakland Athletics’ mascot Stomper, S.J. Sharkie, and Santa Clara University Broncos basketball team players.
“It’s a great chance to give back to the community and put smiles on kids’ faces,” says SCU sophomore Robert Garrett.
“This is an opportunity to spend time with kids less fortunate. It’s a reminder that we don’t have anything to complain about,” says teammate Denzel Johnson.
Courageous Kids Day started locally in 1989 by cancer survivor Gay Crawford, who works year-round with other volunteers to provide this day away from cancer. The day is co-hosted by the American Cancer Society, which celebrates its 100th birthday May 22, and Great America, which opened the entire park to the families and provided lunch.
“When your child gets cancer, the whole family deals with it,” says Sherry Goeders. “It’s a long journey, and something like Courageous Kids Day is so nice because you have a change and can connect with families that know exactly what you’re going through.”