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Pulling for a cure

Cedar Mill's Jack Fried overcomes his own illness to gather wagons for Doernbecher Children's Hospital
by: Jonathan House, Jack Fried, a second-grader at Cedar Mill Elementary School, stands in front of a fund-raiser thermometer, which shows how much money the school has raised to purchase wagons for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. The wagons will be used to transport children or their luggage.

Jack Fried is on a mission - to collect at least six red wagons for patients at Doernbecher Children's Hospital.

Jack has enlisted the help of students in his first/second grade Cedar Mill Elementary School class to help out.

'(Doernbecher doesn't) have a lot of wagons and they need it for luggage and for sick kids that can't walk,' said Jack, a second-grader in Julie Eggers' class.

Since the beginning of the month, Eggers' class has emptied glass jars of coins every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in an effort to collect enough change to purchase two styles of Radio Flyer wagons.

What makes the wagon drive more compelling is the fact that Jack has been a frequent Doernbecher patient himself over the years. He suffers from rhabdomyosarcoma, a relatively rare form of cancer.

'When he was 5, we had a lump removed from his leg,' said his mother, Hadley Fried.

The disease has since metastasized into his bone.

But things are looking up.

'(With) this chemo we just finished, he's kicked it for now,' she said.

During the years, Jack has made many trips to Doernbecher.

'It's pretty cool,' he said of the hospital on the hill. 'The nurses are really, really nice.'

Jars of money

Jack's upbeat personality and willingness to talk about his disease have made him something of a celebrity at his school.

'He's a rock star,' said Hadley Fried. 'Someday he's going to be the next Brad Pitt.'

The 8-year-old also isn't shy when someone asks him about his hairless head or its color, which has changed over the years.

'I think I had red hair,' he said. 'I once had brown hair.'

Eggers said after one of Jack's chemotherapy sessions, the school asked if there was anything they could do to help out.

When the response came that Jack and his mother would like to help out the kids at Doernbecher with a wagon drive, Eggers' class jumped at the chance, getting the word out while he was still undergoing chemotherapy.

'The first and second graders wrote speeches about what the wagons would be used for and what we were going to do,' said Eggers.

Still, Eggers admits it's really been Jack who's helped to push the project forward.

'We're calling him our executive; he's in charge of making the decisions,' said Eggers.

As of Monday, the numerous jars placed around the school have been filled with $1,698 (much of it in change), more than enough to purchase six wagons.

With two large jars of coins to yet be counted, hopes are to purchase as many as eight wagons, said Eggers.

'Eight hundred dollars was our goal,' she said.

The remaining money will go to benefit Doernbecher. In addition, a private donor has pitched in money to help the students out.

'He's spunky'

Hadley Fried said Eggers has been a tremendous help to her son and the family during Jack's fight with cancer.

'She's awesome,' said Hadley Fried. 'She's been so kind.'

Recently the Children's Miracle Network named Jack its Champion Child from Oregon.

'We're going to Washington, D.C., and Orlando (March 28 through April 5),' said Hadley Fried. 'We're going to meet 49 kids from other states who are sort of 'medical miracles.''

Plans are to make some type of presentation of the wagons at Doernbecher Children's Hospital when Jack returns from his trip.

'We're probably going to bring them to the kids or give them to the people who work there,' said Jack whose last overnight trip to Doernbecher was several weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Jack said he's looking forward to visiting both the nation's capital and Florida for the first time.

'I might meet the president,' he noted, 'But I know I'm having lunch with the senators.'

That will be followed by a trip to Disney World.

'I've never been to Disneyland or Disney World,' Jack said. 'We get to go on as many rides as we want because they're paying for it.'

Hadley Fried thinks that in addition to the fact that her son has survived a rare form of cancer, his enthusiasm may have played a part in the Champion Child selection.

'That's why I think they chose him at the Children's Miracle Network - he's spunky,' she said.