Jacob Buckner, a 9-year-old outpatient at the St. Jude clinic at Niswonger Children’s Hospital, has a winning smile, dark eyes, loads of personality and a keen sense for business. He’s also a conscientious kid with a desire to help other children like him who find a warm blanket the best medicine for the chill that runs through a young cancer patient’s body when they are given blood.
It was after experiencing one of those really chilly moments and being wrapped a blanket fresh from the hospital’s blanket warmer that Jacob was struck by a sweet idea.
He had learned his nurses could not resist rubbing his then-bald head and would cough up a quarter for every opportunity to do so, and two for the privilege of pinching his cheek. In a matter of weeks, his quarters were adding up, winning him matching money from his grandfather and uncle and bringing in donations by the hat full from just about everybody who heard his story.
On Thursday, just before his weekly treatment at the clinic, the young entrepreneur proudly presented the total of his innovative fundrasing to the NCH’s chief executive officer — $2,610 he has designated for purchasing a blanket warmer. “It’s so everybody can be warm,” he said.
With awe and appreciation, CEO Steven Godbold told the Buckner family, “I am amazed what Jacob, a patient, noticed here, that it’s kind of chilly and we need more warm blankets. He’s obviously a businessman. He raised over $2,600.”
Jacob said his drive for the blanket warmer began with his nurses at NCH, but it was his dad and mom who picked up the ball and ran with it.
Rick and Becky Buckner, who over the past year have become two of St. Jude’s and NCH’s staunchest advocates, shared their son’s quest with family members, with the folks at Liberty Hill Missionary Baptist Church and the High Oaks Coon Hunting Club, at home in Cocke County and with members of the East Tennessee Chapter of the Epsilon Sigma Alpha service organization, who invited Becky to speak at their annual convention in Pigeon Forge. And just like the nurses at NCH, it seemed no one could resist this young man’s mission. “It was not hard. He’s a good fundraiser,” his dad said.
Diagnosed with leukemia at NCH just a year ago, Jacob was flown immediately to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, where he spent eight weeks in treatment. Now in remission, he and Becky continue to fly Memphis once a month and to drive to NCH from Newport weekly to continue his treatments.
“We have been blessed beyond measure,” Rick said. “This hospital here is great and it’s so cool they’re affiliated with St. Jude.”
“We’re glad to give back just a small portion of what we’ve been given,” Becky added.
As for Jacob, he said he’s considering continuing his fundraising. He’d like to buy the children’s hospital an iPad.
But for now, it’s like his dad said, “It’s a wonderful thing to have a warm blanket when you come here.”