Childhood Cancer Awareness Month begins with heartbreak in Miami-Dade County
Judges, prosecutors, detectives, nurses, teachers among people 9-year-old cancer patient mobilized this week
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – When Jeremiah Pierre was in first grade, his teacher assigned him a seat in the back of the classroom. This was so that the energetic and inquisitive boy could fidget and stand without bothering others, a teacher said.
In February, the Miami Heat fan was diagnosed with a leukemia that progresses quickly. When all of his friends were getting ready to go back to school, a frail Jeremiah was praying every day in his bed at Holtz Children's Hospital.
His teachers at St. James Catholic School, 601 NW 131 St., in North Miami, missed him. Jeremiah's story mobilized judges, prosecutors, former public defenders, defense attorneys, and police officers in Miami-Dade. His nurses fell in love.
"His eyes spoke more to me than many times his soft voice could ever express," former Holtz Children's Hospital life specialist Jenny Justice said. "I wish I could have taken this pain from him."
Jeremiah died a few days before Childhood Cancer Awareness Month's gold campaign began. Pediatric cancer continues to kill more kids than any other disease, yet the National Cancer Institute allocates less than 5 percent to its research.
Cole Stoddard is the inspiration behind the awareness month. He was four when he died of neuroblastoma in 2012. His father, Tony Stoddard, now a childhood cancer advocate, started the worldwide gold campaign.
The 10-year fund President Barack Obama recently established was named after a 10-year-old fifth grader, who died of brain cancer. The fund was born when Obama signed into law the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act.
Gabriella lived for about a year after she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Before she died last year, she wrote a children's book. She spoke in Washington, D.C. She went to Paris and Shenandoah University gave her an honorary degree.
Jeremiah didn't have time for any of that. Acute myeloid leukemia -- the cancer that killed him in months --- has a poor prognosis, the highest mortality rates among all types of cancers worldwide, and limited treatment options.
Nurses said Jeremiah never lost hope. His favorite pediatric nurse said she took notice of the "special boy," because of his "amazing love for God."
Jeremiah's Haitian mom, Jina Felix, became homeless and jobless, because she refused to leave his side. She said he once told her, "don't worry mommy, God will take care of us."
The community has raised at least $11,000 this week. Half of the money was raised in two days on Go FundMe.com. Among the donors were Eleventh Judicial Circuit judges Miguel M. De La O, William Thomas and Nushin Sayfie.
A woman, who never met the boy, donated a plot, a casket and a headstone. The crowdfunding was used to cover the funeral's remaining cost.
How to contact Father Jean Pierre:
Saint James Catholic Church, 540 NW 132 St., in North Miami took Felix under their wing. Father Jean Pierre is helping Felix manage it.
Jeremiah would have turned 10 on Wednesday. Students and teachers at his school set up a "Happy Birthday" table with cup cakes. His funeral was Friday.
NOTE: The original story included photos of students honoring his memory at a school event that the Archdiocese of Miami and the Catholic school administrators asked Local 10 News to remove.
"Please respect our children's privacy ... It is Archdiocese of Miami policy that all media coverage of Archdiocesan events be cleared through the communications office of the Archdiocese of Miami. This story was not cleared," School principal Stephanie Flynn said in an e-mail.
Copyright 2014 by Local10.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.