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Centreville boy battling rare cancer made honorary firefighter, given parade


WATERVILLE - Kings County volunteer firefighters have again proven that their selflessness knows no bounds, whether it’s at an emergency scene or being real-life heroes to a Centreville boy involved in a fight for his life.

Three-year-old Jacob Stern is tenaciously battling a rare form of muscle cancer and, after his treatment June 12, couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience: being made an honourary firefighter for a day.

Jacob became a bit overwhelmed by the huge turnout of supporters and big sister Maddie had to stand in for some of the presentations and ceremonies, including throwing the opening pitch for the Michelin Sports and Social Club’s annual charity softball tournament in support of the Children’s Wish Foundation.

Jacob grinned from ear to ear as it came time for the big moment: getting to ride in a Waterville and District fire truck and leading the parade as an honorary firefighter. There were trucks representing the county’s 13 fire departments in the parade, as well as 17 motorcycles representing the firefighter bike group the Red Knights. Club president Karl Downton made Jacob an honorary member.

Jacob’s mom, Melissa Benjamin, said it was “very overwhelming” to see the vast turnout for her son and family.

“I love to have the support of the community behind Jacob 100 per cent, he’s a fighter and we need all the fighters behind him,” Melissa said.

She said the firefighters and bikers “have a special place in my heart” and Jacob was really looking forward to the event.

“He just got out of the hospital today from having a three-day round of chemo, so he’s very stoked to get out of the hospital and come to this,” Melissa said.

Grandmother Judy Benjamin added that the event was “awesome” and “very heartwarming.”

Like most boys his age, Jacob likes fire trucks and looks up to firefighters. Kentville Fire Chief Ryan MacEachern, who organized the truck parade, said members of the Kings fire service want to be supportive and “get it done right” when given the opportunity to be part of something as special as Jacob’s big day.

“When kids are looking up to you for what you do, you want to be that model they’re looking for,” MacEachern said.

Christine Anderson of the Children’s Wish Foundation Share a Dream committee said having a sick child is an “extremely difficult time” for a family. Having a wish come true is a great time for “a family to be a family and kids to be kids.”

Jacob got his wish in May: visiting Disney World and meeting his all-time favourite character, Tow Mater of Cars.

Anderson said more than $50,000 has been raised through the ball tournament since it’s inception in 2008, with a local wish kid always throwing the first pitch.

Jacob and Maddie were also given hats, firefighter helmets and Michelin Man teddy bears. Jacob was also presented with a Kentville firefighter uniform, trophy and Red Knights vest.

Click here to see a photo slideshow from the event.

About Jacob’s battle

-       In March 2013, Jacob Stern was diagnosed with a rare form of muscle cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma, at 15 months old.

-       Over two months in Indiana in Jacob received targeted radiation to shrink a large lump near his spine.

-       In January 2014, his family received news he was cancer-free. In November 2014, although there was less than a five per cent chance of it happening, the cancer returned more aggressive than before.

-       Earlier this year, Jacob underwent surgery to remove the tumor at the IWK Children’s Hospital in Halifax.

-       Jacob’s chemotherapy treatments continue.

Three-year-old Jacob Stern is tenaciously battling a rare form of muscle cancer and, after his treatment June 12, couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience: being made an honourary firefighter for a day.

Jacob became a bit overwhelmed by the huge turnout of supporters and big sister Maddie had to stand in for some of the presentations and ceremonies, including throwing the opening pitch for the Michelin Sports and Social Club’s annual charity softball tournament in support of the Children’s Wish Foundation.

Jacob grinned from ear to ear as it came time for the big moment: getting to ride in a Waterville and District fire truck and leading the parade as an honorary firefighter. There were trucks representing the county’s 13 fire departments in the parade, as well as 17 motorcycles representing the firefighter bike group the Red Knights. Club president Karl Downton made Jacob an honorary member.

Jacob’s mom, Melissa Benjamin, said it was “very overwhelming” to see the vast turnout for her son and family.

“I love to have the support of the community behind Jacob 100 per cent, he’s a fighter and we need all the fighters behind him,” Melissa said.

She said the firefighters and bikers “have a special place in my heart” and Jacob was really looking forward to the event.

“He just got out of the hospital today from having a three-day round of chemo, so he’s very stoked to get out of the hospital and come to this,” Melissa said.

Grandmother Judy Benjamin added that the event was “awesome” and “very heartwarming.”

Like most boys his age, Jacob likes fire trucks and looks up to firefighters. Kentville Fire Chief Ryan MacEachern, who organized the truck parade, said members of the Kings fire service want to be supportive and “get it done right” when given the opportunity to be part of something as special as Jacob’s big day.

“When kids are looking up to you for what you do, you want to be that model they’re looking for,” MacEachern said.

Christine Anderson of the Children’s Wish Foundation Share a Dream committee said having a sick child is an “extremely difficult time” for a family. Having a wish come true is a great time for “a family to be a family and kids to be kids.”

Jacob got his wish in May: visiting Disney World and meeting his all-time favourite character, Tow Mater of Cars.

Anderson said more than $50,000 has been raised through the ball tournament since it’s inception in 2008, with a local wish kid always throwing the first pitch.

Jacob and Maddie were also given hats, firefighter helmets and Michelin Man teddy bears. Jacob was also presented with a Kentville firefighter uniform, trophy and Red Knights vest.

Click here to see a photo slideshow from the event.

About Jacob’s battle

-       In March 2013, Jacob Stern was diagnosed with a rare form of muscle cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma, at 15 months old.

-       Over two months in Indiana in Jacob received targeted radiation to shrink a large lump near his spine.

-       In January 2014, his family received news he was cancer-free. In November 2014, although there was less than a five per cent chance of it happening, the cancer returned more aggressive than before.

-       Earlier this year, Jacob underwent surgery to remove the tumor at the IWK Children’s Hospital in Halifax.

-       Jacob’s chemotherapy treatments continue.

Grandmother Judy Benjamin gets ready to put three-year-old Jacob Stern in the front seat of a Waterville and District fire truck to lead a parade in his honour.

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