Memorial party will celebrate life of boy who wanted to be famous
In the end, Jack Fried died the same way he lived - on his own terms.
Jack, the tough 9-year-old Cedar Mill boy with the impish smile, passed away at his home Friday after a long and recurring battle with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer.
But he left with the promise from his family that instead of a memorial service, they would throw him a party. Not just any party, but a big memorial party.
'Back in December when Jack was still lucid, we planned and planned and planned his party together, right down to the exact kinds of chips to have and he wanted to 'make sure there are veggie burgers for the vegetarians … and veggie hot dogs … if they make them,'' his mother Hadley Fried recalled in an e-mail to family and friends this week.
'He wanted to make sure everyone was taken care of,' she said.
Lived a lot
What Jack did during his short life was charm himself into the hearts and minds of countless people, leaving behind a legacy that his mother says often isn't accomplished by those who live long and full lives.
Jack spearheaded an effort, along with his second-grade Cedar Mill Elementary School class, to purchase eight high-end plastic Radio Flyer wagons so that young patients at Doernbecher Children's Hospital could carry their belongings (and themselves) up and down the hospital's halls.
He was named the Children's Miracle Network's Champion Child for Oregon last spring, garnering a trip to Disney World and Washington, D.C.
He dropped by the White House for lunch with the president. During his visit, President Bush pressed his head against the young boy's and said, 'You're a good man.'
He befriended Dr. Brian Druker, who developed the cancer-fighting drug Gleevec, and Howard Hedinger, a Portland businessman and philanthropist. Hedinger recently donated $12,500 each to both the Alexa Dyer Foundation, which supports children who have terminal illnesses, and the Children's Cancer Association, to support its Chemo Pal program that matches volunteers to children going through treatment. The donations were made in Jack's name.
A star in the making
'One of the things (Jack) said he wanted is to be famous,' recalls Kathy Perko, a nurse practitioner who helped take care of Jack on his many trips to Doernbecher Children's Hospital, where he underwent chemotherapy off and on since 2004.
Perko, who also supports children and families through the end of life process, said during PowerPoint presentations on the topic, she includes a slide of Jack. 'This is Jack,' she tells her audience. 'He wants to be famous.'
In an earlier interview, Hadley Fried summed it up even more succinctly: 'He's a rock star. Someday, he's going to be the next Brad Pitt.'
On Tuesday, students in Susannah Fennell's third-grade class at Cedar Mill Elementary reflected on Jack's life.
When classmate Rory Csanky learned in December that Jack had cancer again, he assumed it would be similar to the times his friend fought the disease in the past.
'I thought it was the same kind but my mom said he probably wouldn't live this time so I felt pretty sad,' said Csanky.
Csanky, Alex Phelps and Ben Waldrip all recalled how they liked drawing alien space bases with Jack. Riley Ellis said when he and Jack were younger, they would make the same alien bases only out of Lego building blocks, one of Jack's favorite toys.
Another classmate, Tamara Sherman, said Jack liked making pinecone villages, and didn't mind if someone knocked his over.
On Saturday, Fennell gathered her students at the school in an effort to work through the news of Jack's death. They read the book 'If Nathan Were Here,' a story about a little boy who dies.
Later, classmate Maya Macey created a memory box, decorating it with photos of Jack. Students stuffed the box with notes and drawings. One student made a 3D card in the shape of a Lego building block.
'He never thought of himself,' Macey said of Jack. 'He always thought of how he could help other people.'
Students also commemorated Jack's life by holding a special lunch Monday, serving all of Jack's favorite foods: taco pizza, chocolate milk, yogurt, Lego fruit snacks, cheeseburgers, bananas, pot stickers and chocolate.
Jack once told Ellie Stanton, one of his very close classmates, that he wanted to give her a real, live pink pony. She settled for a comparable gift from her friend, a stuffed lion.
'In first and second grade, whenever he'd need help in math, he'd ask me,' Stanton recalled.
Now the class is gearing up to sell commemorative rubber bracelets with 'Team Jack' embossed on them. They'll go for $2 each with the proceeds going to purchase a special memorial bench to be placed on the grounds at Cedar Mill Elementary, said Fennell.
Bringing a community closer
In addition to his mother, Jack is survived by his father, David, and a younger sister, Ivy. Friday, the same day that Jack died, was his father's 44th birthday and the elder Fried said he considered it an honor that Jack would choose that day to leave.
Although the last few months have been tough on the Fried family, Hadley said she's grateful for everyone's support and has collected hundreds of e-mails supporting Jack during his illness.
'One of the many things Jack has done is bring the community of Cedar Mill so close,' she said.
She said the stubborn boy, who often would refuse pain medication near the end, had numerous culinary requests - his mother said he was a bona fide 'foodie' - during his last few months. Not the least of those was a request for a taco pizza from Godfather's restaurant.
In addition to his family, Jack's cockapoo, Raina stuck close by until the end.
'She was with him when he died,' Hadley said of the dog that was a gift from a caring individual.
Hadley said she talked about Jack and his death, giving him straight answers because he was the kind of kid who would have known if someone wasn't being honest with him.
Hadley said in addition to preparing the menu for his memorial party, Jack requested a big parade with both a jazz and rock and roll band.
'We're going to try,' Hadley said about organizing the parade. 'That's what Jack wanted.'
Hadley said one of Jack's greatest regrets at the end was that he wasn't going to attend his own memorial party. Hadley assured him he'd be there.