May 28, 2014, Agua Dulce, CA—A tradition in the greater Santa Clarita Valley is developing in May, brain tumor awareness month. Jack’s Angels Foundation, of Agua Dulce, CA, is dedicated to awareness, support, and research for DIPG, a pediatric brainstem tumor responsible for 80% of pediatric brain tumor deaths annually, no survivors, and no progress to that effect in over 30 years. The foundation was inspired in loving memory of James-William “Jack” Demeter, Agua Dulce resident, 8/30/08—7/30/12, afflicted with DIPG in late 2011, and suddenly lost forever; it was motivated also from the fact that there are currently no answers in modern medicine to this affliction, and not nearly enough going on to find those answers.
In the spring of 2012, while Jack was still alive, Peggy Marrone, art teacher at the Agua Dulce Elementary School brought to the Demeter household over 60 beautiful paintings in support of a music event for Jack slated for July 2012. Sadly, tumor progression set in and there was not time to adequately prepare the art for the benefit concert. Jack’s mother and founder of Jack’s Angels, Janet Demeter, remained determined that Jack’s Angels foundation’s first event should be dedicated to celebrating children’s art, and so it was, May 11 2013, involving children’s art workshops, fine art displays of local artists, and musical entertainment from professional artists and also talented young artists.
On May 20, 2014 Jack’s Angels hosted its 2nd annual “Art for Jack” event. The children’s art workshops included acrylic painting with Heidi Vaughn, art teacher at the Buckley School for over 30 years, watercolor/crayon with Peggy Marrone, art teacher at Agua Dulce Elementary School, and creative collage with Stefanie Schussler, local artist and teacher. Exhibiting artists included Lorlinda Osborne andJanine Ayres of Santa Clarita, CA; the “Art for Jack” traveling gallery created a special tribute to 6 DIPG children recently passed away, notably John Bradley Thompson and Naithan Sizemore, whose stories the foundation followed closely and can be found documented on the foundation website. Family entertainment was highlighted by vocalist Teresa James and saxophonist Jerry Peterson, singer/songwriter Dave Fraser, “Naked Rhythm”– Alex Spurkel on Doumbek, Michael Battista on Flamenco Guitar, and Quetzel Guerrero on violin, accompanying theMeadowlark Dancers, a middle-eastern-style troupe of young dancers headed by Mrs. Tracy Costan, of Acton CA. Jim Thompson, master magician, enthralled the audience and employed extra assistance from the young onlookers, with many laughs and surprises. Center Stage Opera made a special appearance, with performances by Shira Renee Thomas, principal soprano, heralding the coming this Fall 2014 of a choral program primarily for children in, but not exclusive to, the Acton-Agua Dulce area. More information about this program will be forthcoming this summer from theActon-Agua Dulce Unified School District. Delicious supporters of the event included Rita’s Italian Ice of Saugus, CA, and Nothing Bundt Cakes of Valencia CA. Le Chene Restaurant, of Agua Dulce, generously donated to the raffle, as well as “Jump 5150” of Valencia, “KidsArt” of Valencia, and “Pinots Palette” among others. The Agua Dulce Royal Court and 4 local Cub Scout troopsassisted generously in the festivities.
Jack’s Angels first goal was to start a DIPG research fund at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and also to support and encourage the formation of such a fund at every major children’s research institution with a strong neuro-oncology program in the US. The first annual “Art for Jack” event in May 2013 drew some attention for DIPG, and the Mod Hatters of Actondedicated their fundraising efforts from their annual golf event to open the DIPG research fund for Jack’s Angels as the result of publicity for the first “Art for Jack” event. They were awarded a trophy and certificate of public merit for their contribution to Jack’s Angels cause, Friday May 23rd, 2014 at the 2nd Annual Powderpuff Football Game benefiting Jack’s Angels, at Vasquez High School. Jack’s Angels gave out over 16 awards, including those key volunteers whose initiative enabled the foundation to survive its first year and begin to fulfill its mission. Brandi Beltran, 2013 graduate of Vasquez High School, will accompany Janet Demeter Monday, June 2, in giving a gift to the DIPG research fund at Children’s Hospital LA. “Art for Jack” 2015 is scheduled for Sunday, May 3, 2015.
Brandi and her classmate Oren Dye, also a 2013 graduate of Vasquez High School, created the first Powderpuff game, now having the legacy of a 2nd annual event. The support has been instrumental to Jack’s Angels continuing raising awareness for the urgent need for more research for DIPG and pediatric brain tumors, the leading cause of cancer-related death in children, yet one of the least-funded areas of research.
Because of Jack’s Angels membership to the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, an organization that has been consistently supportive of the new public charity, Jack’s Angels President Janet Demeter had the good fortune of meeting, at an annual Chamber event,Assemblyman Scott Wilk, affected quite
strongly at learning about DIPG from Jack’s Angels literature. His office has worked tirelessly to pass a resolution to make May 25-31st DIPG Awareness Week in the State of California, the status information for which is now pending. Jack’s Angels is also committed to raising awareness for the fact that only 4% of the National Cancer Institute’s annual budget for research funding goes to pediatric cancer research. For more information about Jack’s Angels mission, visitwww.jacksangels.org home page.
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