CMS West student gifts Snuggies to patients

by Ashley Attanucci
Staff Writer 

CMS West student Jack Barker collects Snuggies donated by local companies to give to cancer patients. Photo courtesy Giora Barker.

Twelve year old Jack Barker is a cancer patient. He is also a student, son, brother, athlete, friend and an inspiration to the 1,000- plus lives he has recently touched.

Days before his birth­day in September, Barker was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphocytic leu­kemia (ALL), a disease which overproduces bad T-cells instead of the good ones needed to fight infec­tions. He has since been in and out of the hospi­tal for countless hours of chemotherapy treatment which makes him too sick and weak to attend school at Coppell Middle School West.

However, the very thing that is making Barker physically weak is making him stronger as his battle against cancer is inspiring and motivating him to help other cancer patients.  

Despite his many hardships, Barker is deter­mined to gift every cancer patient at Children’s Hos­pital with a Snuggie. His charity was inspired by his very own Snuggie blanket, given to him as a birthday gift after he was diagnosed.

“The director of my preschool had gotten me a Snuggie for my birthday, and it helped so much be­cause it was really warm and I could keep my hands free to play Wii and work on my computer and do homework [during chemo­therapy],” Barker said.

Soon after, Barker de­cided to gift a close nurse, Sharon Stewart, who draws his blood and who is also undergoing chemothera­phy, a Snuggie of her own.

“It means the world to me [that] he’s giving back to the kids less fortunate than him,” Stewart said. “He thinks about every­body and wants everyone to be comfortable here. I wear my Snuggie every single day, since the day I got it. It’s like a comfort blanket for me now. His spirit and his soul are amazing. He’s beaten all the odds at this point, [and] he doesn’t let anything get him down.”

Since then, Jack has been collecting hundreds of Snuggies to personally deliver to patients at his hospital.

“They normally react with a smile, and it makes me feel good because I know that I caused [that smile],” said Barker.

Jack and his mother, Giora Barker, set up a foun­dation called “Jack’s Closet” and a website to direct charity donations due to the overwhelming response from family, friends, the community and strangers across America who want­ed to help.

Students at CMS West were supportive of Jack before his idea for Jack’s Closet, remember­ing Jack while he missed school by wearing bracelets with his initials on them, and they later helped raise money for the foundation by selling bracelets for $1. They also raised money to get Jack a laptop for his birthday to help him keep up with his schoolwork.

“Jack’s a real servant leader, and what I mean is he looks for ways to take a situation and make a positive situation out of it,” CMSW Principal Vern Edin said. “[The sixth grade class] decided to look at how they could help Jack out since Jack is helping so many people with his [Snuggie] cause and asked ‘how can we help and get behind him’. It shows the camaraderie and support and how important he is to everybody and that he has a lot of good friends at the school.

“The biggest thing was to help support Jack and make his transition back to school one that would be easy on him. Here at the school we support him and let him know we’re think­ing of him [and] that he’s in our prayers. We have become more aware of what leu­kemia is and how it affects everybody.”

Barker poses with girls from the Coppell Dance Centre and donated Snuggies. Photo courtesy Giora Barker.

Coppell High School has also been active with support for Jack and Jack’s Closet as the football team has helped transport Snug­gies and the tennis team plans a Serve-A-Thon.

“Jack has been at­tending my summer ten­nis camps forever so we as a tennis team feel like he is one of our own,” CHS tennis coach Jane Jackson said. “He’s got a goal and we want to help him reach that goal.”Furthermore, local businesses, churches, out of state schools and the Snug­gie company have shown their support through do­nating Snuggies, money and food to fundraisers.Fiercest of all, though, is the support Jack has felt from his family: his two brothers Charlie, 6, and Nick, 13, and sister, Nata­lie, 10, who help him de­liver Snuggies; his mother who helps organize Jack’s Closet; his grandparents who shaved their heads; and his father, Tim Barker, who also shaved his head with Jack.Jack is moving into Phase 3 of his treatment and returned to school Jan.13 for a few hours each day. Snuggies still arrive on the Barker’s doorstep, and they have collected over 1,300 Snuggies and plan on expanding Jack’s Closet to other hospitals.“I am extremely proud of him and his ability to think of others at a time when he’s going through so much and struggling and hurting,” Giora Barker said. “I’m happy to see that he can find joy giving back to the kids [at the hospital].”“JB” bracelets can be bought at Corban book store or Pamela’s in Coppell and donations can be made at Jacksclosetfoundation.blogspot.com.