Donor appreciation takes the stage at celebration

Sep 22, 2019

MATTAPOISETT — Superheroes walked among the crowd, a police chief quoted Winnie the Pooh multiple times, and donors heard how attention to the small details childhood pediatrics can make a big difference for children at the Sept. 21 Fourth Annual Friends of Jack Celebration. 

The Friends of Jack is a medical charity headed by Mattapoisett’s Jill Fearons and named after her son who suffers from a rare neurological condition. The program started in Southcoast Hospitals, but has since expanded to Boston Children’s Hospital, seven police departments (including the State Police), Child and Family Services, and other groups. 

The charity’s goal is to make less stressful any situation that children would find scary. In hospitals, that means giving kids stuffed toys or teddy bears, or letting kids don superhero masks and capes and drive cars to surgical procedures so the experience is more fun than stressful. For children who are scare of police officers, it means giving officers teddy bears, capes and masks to hand to kids. For foster kids who have to move from place to place, assistance comes in the form of a personalized duffel bag, so they do not have to move in garbage bags. 

Hundreds of supporters of the Friends of Jack gathered at The Bay Club to eat, drink, socialize, partake in a silent auction, and hear about the ways that the foundation made a difference. 

Fearons has raised over $600,000 with her four Celebrations. She said at the last one that she had already surpassed the amount that she made at the third Celebration. 

The founder said that she was grateful to see so many faces from year one that were still supporting her efforts. 

Although they aren’t nearly as obvious as the superheroes walking around, Fearons called her donors and supporters “silent heroes,” adding that “you all are the Friends of Jack Foundation.” 

Part of Fearons’ speech was a status update on her popular programs. She said that the teddy bear program has now grown to 18,000 bears a month. Her favorite part is watching kids participate at schools. 

For some of her new programs she explained how they started. With the duffle bag program she got a call from Child and Family Services to tell her that children were moving in garbage bags, and thought, “oh hell no, not on our watch!” 

She introduced her second speaker, New Bedford Chief of Police Joseph Cordeiro by telling the story of her initial presentation to him, and how she left and said, “I think he thinks I’m crazy.” 

Now, Cordeiro seemed in impressed, starting his speech with “Wow. Wow, wow, wow.” and “Thank you Jill for your relentless passion for kids you do not know or may never meet.” 

He talked about what it is like to work with children who experience at 8 years old “what you don’t even want adults to experience.” 

One father brought his daughter to the station because she was scared of police officers. Cordeiro described how he “pulled out one of Jill’s teddy bears and the magic began,” with the girl eventually “jumping up and down and running around my office.” 

He said that police officers are known for being cynical, but being asked to reach out to children “humanizes us.” 

Brian Sard, the chair of pediatrics for Southcoast Hospitals Group, also spoke about how he hopes to develop the first single family room to treat babies with health conditions at St. Luke’s. He explained that these babies are usually kept in a unit with other infants. However, keeping babies and mothers together helps to build a critical maternal-infant bond.  

Key in developing the new treatment space would be a monitoring system for nurses, which Sard said proceeds from the night would help fund. 

Fearons finished off the night by thanking her family. She called the Foundation the “rainbow at end of horrific storm,” for her and her family, and encouraged others to look for their rainbows too.