Helping Jack’s magic beans grow
Those who donate $50 or more will be entered into a raffle for two tickets to the sold-out U2 concert at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 20.
Jack’s last months were tough on both him and his family. He underwent low-dose and high-dose chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and other treatments until he passed on in December 2005 at age 2 years, four months and four days.
This experience made Linda and her husband, Matt, who live on Walnut Street, take a step back and evaluate what pediatric cancer is doing to families across the nation. “How you view your family, how precious it all becomes. Jack left us with many lessons in life. We’ve learnt a lot about what these families need,” Linda said.
To honor Jack’s memory, the Ramsden family last year set up a luminary display at Warren Park on the anniversary of Jack’s death. Held on Dec. 12, it raised awareness of the illness, as well as $8,000 in donations.
With the success of 12th Night, the Ramsdens have taken on a new mission: starting a fund in Jack’s name. Jack’s Magic Bean Fund was launched on Aug. 8, in honor of what would have been his sixth birthday, using funds generated from 12th Night. “We were looking to have $10,000 in seed money, and 12th Night did that for us. So we were very happy and we’re looking to really watch it blossom,” Linda said.
Jack’s Magic Bean Fund, “fighting cancer in young human beans,” offers bereavement support, research into new therapies and financial aid to families trying to cope with the financial costs of the illness.
Bereavement support is the after-shock therapy parents and families attend after losing a child or sibling to pediatric cancer. “We received bereavement support after our infant son, Cian, died of neuroblastoma,” said Jennifer Crowley of Quincy. The Crowleys were devastated by the loss of their only child, who was 5 months old at diagnosis and 7 months old when he died in 2006. Bereavement support helped them face the challenge of life without him.
When Linda told her that the Ramsden family had started Jack’s Magic Bean Fund, she was excited. “I am thrilled with the work she has done with the Magic Bean Fund, and delighted she asked me to become involved with the group. I love the fact that she adopted a three-fold mission,” she said.
Crowley is now part of the promotions team at Jack’s Magic Bean. “I have 10-plus years experience in health-related PR and marketing, so I will be helping Magic Bean with promotional activities around its fundraising efforts, particularly events,” Crowley said.
She said that although she and her family “never did have the pleasure of meeting that special little boy [Jack], I had an instant connection with Linda. We talked via e-mail almost every day then decided to meet, and our families just got along wonderfully.”
“She has been a huge support in my recent life; no one understands the loss of a child like another bereaved parent. We say things to each other we would probably never say to someone else, but we know the other one just ‘gets’ it,” she added.
Neuroblastoma is a still relatively unknown form of cancer that devastates the lives of families across the nation. Rose Provencher, the fund’s official creative director, said, “getting the word out is critical in raising awareness and funds. Jack’s Magic Bean Fund has a unique and personal approach.”
“The fund looks to assist families throughout the pediatric cancer care. Not all outcomes provide a happy ending and I am so pleased that the fund has been available for families when bereavement assistance is also needed,” Provencher said.
Looking for a cure
Jack’s Magic Bean puts some of its resources into finding and funding new therapies. “Funding clinical trials across the country provides the hope for more happy endings. Fundraising is under way with the desire to support even more projects wherever they may be developing,” Provencher said. The official development director of Jack’s Magic Bean, Judith Mullaney, elaborated on the work Jack’s Magic Bean Fund has been doing in the new therapies division. “Jack’s Magic Bean Fund supports the research work on angiogenesis pioneered by Dr. Judah Folkman that is now being carried out by his team. We also support the new therapies being developed for pediatric cancer at Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center as well as the clinical trials being directed by Dr. Giselle Sholler in Vermont,” she said. “Along with the support given to individual families in treatment and numerous research studies our programs provide financial assistance to families in need that are undergoing treatment.”
Finding a cure is one of the priorities of the fund. “Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in American children between infancy and age 15,” said Angie Martinez-Gakidis, one of the fund’s board members and a Harvard-trained cancer researcher. "We believe that pediatric cancer research should be a top priority and should be given the equivalent research effort and funding as more common adult cancers. At Jack’s Magic Bean Fund, we’re ideally suited to help in this effort as we are not associated with any institution and are thus able to fund promising research wherever it may arise.”
The fact that neuroblastomas are still incurable helps drive the Jack’s Magic Bean Fund team. No possibility will be left unexplored — as Linda Ramsden said, “Cancer doesn’t take the day off”.
The other inspiration is Jack himself, a little boy who still has a place in his family’s heart and lives. Jack loved music, Ramsden said. “I still see him doing his little dance at the luau we went to. Everyone was eating, but Jack knew that if there was music playing, especially live music, he should be dancing! To this day, whenever his favorite songs come on [like Justin Timberlake’s ‘Sexy Back’] we all start dancing, no matter where we are.”