Making a Difference: 11-year-old boy with Crohn's disease helps kids in the hospital
EBENSBURG, PA —
An 11-year-old boy from Ebensburg, who lives with Crohn’s disease, is making a difference in his community by helping other children who are in the hospital.
Jakob Zernick has been through a lot in his short life. Even though he has to be treated for Crohn’s disease, he always stays positive and does what makes him happy, like gardening.
Now, he's found a way to help others from the seed to the hearts of kids in need of comfort.
You name the vegetable, Jakob Zernick, a 6th grader at Central Cambria Middle School, probably has grown it, or has plans to.
Zernick shows off his garden, “You can see the broccoli, two rows of peppers, I had lots of tomatoes in here."
Jakob loves science, playing sports, acting in plays, and spending time with his little sister, Kaitlyn.
Jakob is a busy 11-year-old and he's pretty brave. A few years ago, he was feeling a lot of pain in his stomach.
“The hardest part was not knowing what he had and not knowing what it was that was causing him all this pain,” said Jody Zernick who is Jakob’s Dad.
After many tests, at 8 years old, he was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, which was pretty scary for Jakob.
"Probably not knowing what’s going to happen, you know, if I’m going to get shots or something," Jakob said.
Thankfully, he has come a long way.
“Knock on wood, he's been very well since he started his infusion treatments which we go to every 8 weeks we have to go to Children's. He gets 2 hour infusions through IV and he takes his daily pills,” Jakob’s Dad, Jody Zernick, said.
Since he's been feeling better, last Christmas, Jakob asked for an indoor greenhouse and soon after that decided he wanted a garden. So he got to work in the Spring and started plants from the seed.
“Our friends and family helped build the garden and he started planting all the vegetables and decided he was going to sell them at the end of the road," said Nicole Zernick who is Jakob’s mother.
He sold his veggies to neighbors in Ebensburg and even though he makes it look easy, it's a lot of work.
When the weather was nice, he had to water the plants and pull weeds every day.
"Takes about a good hour or two," Jakob said.
Full of smiles, Jakob, said is thankful for his doctors and the staff at children's hospital.
“They'd try to bring comfort and get Jakob's mind off of it so whether it was a blanket or games to play with while he was having his infusion. That was really what helped Jakob,” said Jakob’s Mom, Nicole Zernick, said.
He decided to give back by growing his plants with love to help other kids in the hospital.
“I thought of how much Children's did to me and I decided to give back to them and use half of the money to get board games and blankets,” Jakob said.
He recently went to the hospital for his infusion and delivered thirty blankets and lots of board games.
“It makes me feel great, like awesome,” Jakob said with a laugh.
For a little kid, he's got a pretty big heart that just keeps blooming.
“I think for him it’s just being able to give back to other people and I think his primary thing is that other kids will help others too."
Jakob has big plans for the future, he has it all mapped out and wants to extend his garden. He also wants to start a nonprofit organization.
“Called seeds for needs and every year we'll give money to Children's Hospital,” Jakob said.
Just like a plant that keeps thriving, so will Jakob.
“That no matter what happens, I’m going to get through it. Just to focus on the good things that’s going to happen," Jakob said.
And now, after every long day of work for Jacob, other kids’ days will be much brighter.
Jakob will continue to get infusion treatments every 8 weeks at Children's Hospital and he takes medication every day.
The Zernick family is hoping they can start up the nonprofit organization that will be called
‘Seeds for Needs.’
They have just begun the process of becoming a nonprofit and Jakob looks forward to helping more kids in the hospital.