Poland North Elementary's staff, parents, and PTO came together last week to hold a lunchtime bake sale to help the Diaz family with expenses for medical treatments and surgeries for nine-month-old Jackson Christian Diaz.
Jackson was born on June 20 last year and was diagnosed with Apert Syndrome. Apert is a rare disorder affecting one in 200,000 births, causing the skull to fuse together and not allow any room for the brain to grow. It affects the skull, face, feet and hands and requires a series of surgeries to correct.
Jackson's mother Melanie Diaz of Poland, said in normal development, the skull has areas that are connected but allow for expansion. In Jackson's case, those areas are trying to fuse together as one bone mass with no area of expansion.
Photo special to the Town Crier
Jackson Christian Diaz is the focus of a fundraising effort by Poland North and the PTO.
Jackson had his first surgery on Monday, Feb. 4. His parents Melanie and John Diaz, drove him to Philadelphia where surgeons placed wires into his skull that have to be serviced daily.
"The [extractor devices] are similar to braces for teeth," Melanie said. "They separate the bone that is trying to fuse and allow for expansion."
She said the extractors have to be turned slightly every day to prevent fusing. That task will have to be done daily for three weeks, then, if all goes well, that section of skull will expand and give young Jackson more room for his brain to develop.
"Hopefully, we'll get him lots of space," Melanie said.
She said the turning is slight and doesn't hurt young Jackson at all. She said it had been tried on older children who reported no pain before it was considered safe for infants.
Needless to say, the costs for procedures, required testing and medical visits are mounting. Although the Diaz family does have insurance, it doesn't pay the whole bill, leaving numbers climbing higher almost daily.
When Poland North PTO found out about the situation, it didn't take long to come together to help raise some funds to help the family with their trips to Philadelphia and the medical co-pays.
Several staff and PTO members at North were familiar with the Diaz family. Jackson's older brother Julian is 12 and attends Poland Middle School and his older sister Macy is 16 and is a sophomore at Poland High School. Both went through Poland North Elementary.
"We are the smallest school in Poland, but we are close knit," said Lisa Weimer, North PTO secretary.
She said when someone stumbled onto Jackson's Facebook page, the word traveled fast and everyone wanted to do something. They decided to begin fundraisers to help the family with the medical costs and trips to Philadelphia. The first event was held on Tuesday, Feb. 12. It involved a simple bake sale, but turned out to be huge. Three long tables were covered with baked goods made by PTO members, parents, and staff.
Students and staff could purchase some of the goods at their lunch period and anyone could come and participate. When the day was over, the funds brought in amazed everyone to the point that a second bake sale was held on Wednesday.
"We had such an overwhelming amount of support that we held another bake sale," Weimer said. "The first one raised $453 and we aren't done yet!"
The PTO is looking forward to April 12 through 27 when they are planning a pepperoni roll sale to continue the effort.
Melanie said she is grateful for the community support she has received and spoke highly of the school.
"Poland North is an amazing school," she said. "I recall when they raised money for Make-A-Wish; it was an enormous amount."
She said she hopes to be able to bring Jackson to the school when he is well enough to go out. She wants the students and staff to meet her son and she wants to talk to the kids about Apert.