PITTSFIELD -- A bounce house, dancing and popsicles at 10:30 in the morning? When you find out a child is now cancer-free, you pull out all the stops.
The staff and students of the Children's Center of the Boys & Girls Club of Pittsfield gathered in the gymnasium on Friday to celebrate the fact that 6-year-old member Jacob "Jake" Daniels now has the rest of his life to live.
Diagnosed at age 21 2 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancers, the Daniels family was told on the morning of March 23 this year that Jacob's body is clear of cancer. On Wednesday, when his dad, Perry Daniels, took him to the doctor's office for a regular checkup, Jacob was given the OK to stop taking his last daily antibiotic.
"It's pretty awesome that I don't even have to do meds anymore," Jacob told The Eagle in a brief interview, before dashing back to an inflatable bowling activity.
"He feels so good now, I think he's got so much energy he doesn't know what to do with it," the boy's father said.
But it hasn't always been like that. Jacob's mother, Maureen Daniels, said that Jacob was diagnosed on Dec. 1, 2010, after going from Berkshire Pediatrics in Pittsfield to Baystate Children's Hospital in Springfield.
Between that December and May 2011, Jacob had to undergo daily chemotherapy treatments at home and quarterly spinal treatments, and grew very tired. It took a toll on the whole family.
The Daniels' older son, Logan, who was only about 5 at the time, was attending the Boys & Girls Club when Jacob was diagnosed.
"The club and its staff were so helpful in keeping our family stable and the boys stable," Maureen Daniels said.
"They've been a big part of our team," Perry Daniels added.
Approximately 13,500 children are diagnosed annually with cancer in the United States, meaning the support for families across the country is greatly needed.
Heather Smegal and Lisa Benoit co-teach Jacob's class in the SEED Program of the Children's Center. Smegal said the 5- and 6-year-olds there are aware of Jacob's illness.
"Jake's very matter-of-fact about it, and would explain to the other kids about the treatments as he went through them," Smegal said.
As part of Friday's festivities, kids and teachers wore bright orange T-shirts that read on the front "Stronger, Faster, Awesomer" and on the sleeve, "I Beat Leukemia: Jacob." The children also lined up to hand Jacob donations they and their families collected to support "Team Jacob ‘n Friends," an American Cancer Society Relay for Life team organized four years ago in support of Jacob and his family.
"It's really nice of them," Jacob said of all of his well-wishers.
On Sunday, a Team Jacob ‘n Friends picnic benefit for Relay for Life will be held with live music at O'Laughlin's Pub in Pittsfield.
Maureen Daniels said there's no doubt that the healthy Jacob will be there, bouncing around among the guests. Each day his family will be watching after him, willing him to stay free and clear of cancer through the five-year milestone of Dec. 1, 2015.
"The resiliency in him is pretty amazing," she said of her son.
To reach Jenn Smith:
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On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink
If you go ...
What: Fourth annual Team Jacob ‘n Friends for Relay for Life benefit.
When: Noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Where: O'Laughlin's Pub, 342 Merrill Road, Pittsfield.
Cost: $10 donation.
Details: Live music performed by Rakish Paddy, Wendy Walz & Jim Witherell, Naomi Nicola, Randy Cormier, Bill Murphy, Brian Benlien and Pete Boyd. A picnic grill lunch is included. There will also be various raffles held throughout the day.