For a child undergoing IV therapy or chemotherapy, playtime is cut short while their treatment is administered. Now, children at Akron Children's Hospital Mahoning Valley have a chance to focus less on sickness and more on fun thanks to the Jacob Lewis Memorial Fund. On Thursday, Dec. 13, the hospital received the fund's donation of a Dream Racer, a child-sized race car that uses video games to entertain children who were undergoing IV treatments.
JoAnn Lewis, president of the Jacob Lewis Memorial Fund, and mother of the late Jacob Lewis, presented the donation on Thursday. The fund was created in September 1995 to remember six-year-old Jacob Lewis from Sharpsville, Pa., who lost a battle with a brain tumor. Friends of the family had pulled together and held fundraisers to help the Lewis family with the medical bills involved in young Jacob's treatment. After his passing, the family had funds left over and they decided to set up a foundation in his honor. The goal of the foundation was to help other children, something the young Jacob was known for.
"All he ever wanted to do was help others kids," says JoAnn Lewis. "In the midst of fighting his own courageous battle, Jacob looked for opportunities to make other sick children feel better. He delivered drawings, played jokes and gave rides in the little red wagon."
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
JoAnn Lewis, Jenna Lewis, and Sara Cipriano from the Jacob Lewis Memorial Fund were on hand to deliver and set up Akron Children’s Hospital’s new Dream Racer that will make procedures such as chemotherapy a little more tolerable for young patients.
The Jacob Lewis Memorial Fund continued to grow and was doing good things for other young people. One volunteer, Sara Cipriano, was working with the fund and being a race fan, was watching a NASCAR race on television. During one of the commercial breaks, she said a public service announcement for Hendricks Motorsports showcased the Dream Racer.
"I contacted the company and within four months had raised the $10,000 needed to buy the first one," Cipriano said.
She said a lot of the donations the Jacob Lewis Memorial Fund received came from the Boardman area, so the decision was made to donate the first one to Akron Children's Hospital in Boardman. The Dream Racer was delivered on what would have been young Jacob's 24th birthday.
Acting as official ambassador for the Boardman campus was seven-year-old Trinity Tubbs from Columbiana. Trinity undergoes IV therapy on a regular basis after she was diagnosed in October with Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, a bleeding disorder in which the immune system destroys platelets that are necessary for normal blood clotting.
Trinity was the first child at Akron Children's Hospital to use the new Dream Racer. The racer allows patients to be strapped in to play video games, watch a movie or listen to music streaming from the built-in A/V components, allowing them to forget about medicine and chemotherapy treatments and to be engaged in the thrill of racing.
The racer is equipped with flat panel display; CD/DVD player; Play Station; and can add a swivel food tray and cup holder. The roll cage also houses an IV stand; oxygen bottle holder; and easy-roll casters with a brake. It is built with the same materials as real race cars: steel roll cage and bodywork, and a fabric racing seat complete with safety harness. The racers are painted to match their actual sized counterparts and have genuine graphics.
It didn't take long for Trinity to become engulfed in the world of racing as she was buckled in and hit the gas pedal. In spite of a large crowd and TV cameras, Trinity didn't break her concentration as she moved through sharp turns and tried to keep on the track.
"It's awesome, it really is," said her mom Sheina Little.
While the Boardman hospital is up and running with its Dream Racer, work for the Jacob Lewis Memorial Fund continues.
"There are 756 children's hospitals in the U.S.," JoAnne Lewis said. "We won't quit until each has a Dream Racer. We are already three-fourths of the way towards getting our second one."
For more information about or to donate to the Jacob Lewis Memorial Fund visit www.jacoblewismemorialfund.org.