TORONTO — A young boy’s battle against a rare cancer has spurred fundraising and awareness campaigns and brought members of Toronto’s Jewish community together for a good cause.
On Jan. 28, in honour of 10-year-old Jake Wagman, hundreds of friends, family, well-wishers and Grateful Dead fans will gather at Lee’s Palace in downtown Toronto for some live music and to raise money for Ewing’s sarcoma research.
Marni Brooks, Jake’s mother, explained that her son was diagnosed with Ewing’s – a cancerous bone tumour that usually affects children during puberty when bones are growing rapidly – less than a year ago.
“My husband and I were out of town in April 2011, and my mother-in-law was watching the kids and she took them to a movie,” Brooks recalled.
“Jake told her he was seeing double during the movie.”
When his vision problem didn’t correct itself, Jake was taken to see his doctor, who then advised that he go to the Hospital for Sick Children.
“He was diagnosed with a tumour almost immediately because his left eye couldn’t rotate externally to the left.”
Brooks said that not only is the cancer itself unusual, but her son developed a tumour in an uncommon location, in his skull. It took about two weeks more to discover that the source of the tumour was Ewing’s.
Brooks said her 15-year-old niece was inspired by her cousin’s ordeal and enlisted the help of two of her friends to create a website in Jake’s honour called Jake’s Collection.
To date, Jake’s Collection has raised more than $12,000 for Ewing’s cancer research, and despite the fact that Jake completed his required 14 rounds of chemotherapy and 33 radiation treatments, the fundraising will continue.
“Because it’s so rare, not a lot of funding is available for research for it,” Brooks said, adding that she’s grateful for the support.
“There is a long way to go to find a cure. Every little bit helps.”
Mars Hotel drummer Jordan Lampert is confident he and his band will be able to add a few thousand dollars to the cause later this month.
Mars Hotel, a Grateful Dead tribute band, will join Rory Levy of the Gratefully Deadicated Sound System, a DJ who will mix high-quality concert recordings in a seamless set with the band.
“When Rory suggested we play a gig that benefits Jake, that spurred us on to make this happen,” said Lampert, who is a longtime friend of Brooks’ brother, Ryan.
As a father of two himself, Lampert said it didn’t take much convincing to get involved in this initiative.
“Especially when you have kids, you’d never wish for any kid to have to go through a health issue like this,” he said.
“If there is anything any of us can do to help kids that are going through this or kids who may have to go through it in the future… I just think it’s a cause that everyone can rally around. A universal cause of helping children is a good one.”
Lampert said he hopes to attract about 400 people to the show, which would garner about $4,000 for the cause.
Visit jakescollection.tumblr.com for more information about Jake’s Collection or the upcoming show.