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Long Island Mom Leads a Team to Help Kids in Need

Long Island Mom Leads a Team to Help Kids in Need

A Long Island mother, inspired by her son, will run the Miami Marathon to raise money for kids with life-long and life-threatening illnesses

A mother would do almost anything for her child, and this will be put to the test next month when a Woodmere, NY, mom participates in the Miami Marathon to raise money for an organization that is close to her heart. 

Rachel Hersko, 36, is the mother of 11-year-old Jacob, who was born with necrotizing enterocolitis, a condition that causes intestinal tissue to die. At less than two weeks old, Jacob had most of his small intestine removed and spent most of his first year of life in the neonatal intensive care unit. Jacob's surgery was successful, but he remains dependent on a feeding tube today. 

For Rachel, the first few years of Jacob's life was a lot of learning. She and her family eventually became connected to Chai Lifeline, an international children's health organization that helps patients and families cope with the challenges of life-long and life-threatening illness. 

Participating in the Miami Marathon

Getting the phone call that her newborn had to have emergency surgery put Rachel, a nurse, into practical mode. As frightening as this news was to hear, she knew exactly what she had to do. 

“My nurse instinct kicked in. I wasn't scared, I wasn't sad. I told my husband, 'let's just go,'” says Rachel, who has two other children. “It didn't really hit me until I had to give him that kiss goodbye before going into the operating room. That's when I broke down.” 

Today, 11 years later, Jacob can have some food, most of his caloric intake comes from a special formula ingested through the feeding tube and bag that is connected to his stomach. His diagnosis has changed over the years, and he now lives with short bowel syndrome, a condition in which a person is not able to absorb enough nutrients from food because they don't have enough small intestine. 

According to Rachel, Chai Lifeline helped her family cope in so many ways. Whether it was sending volunteers to her house, giving Jacob a chance to attend Chai Lifeline's Camp Simcha or providing an after-school program for her children so she and her husband could spend more time with Jacob in the hospital, she's thankful for it all.  

That's why she's participating in the Miami Marathon on Feb. 6. Rachel, who has walked the marathon before, is leading Team Jacob, part of Team Lifeline at the race. Rachel will be walking along with 26 other runners and walkers on her team to support and raise money for the nonprofit, which has a strong presence in Miami. 

“Chai Lifeline does so much. If I could raise even a little something, this is my way of saying 'thank you,'” Rachel says. 

But so far, Rachel has raised more than “a little something.” The dedicated mom surpassed her fundraising goal of $80,000 and has now reached over $140,000 for the charity. 

About Team Jacob

Team Jacob is made up of family and friends who want to make a difference. Jacob will be there to finish the race with his team. His grandmother and several of his childhood friends will be participating, too. His teacher at Hebrew Academy of Five Towns and Rockaway, Rabbi Chaim Siff, will also be running in support of Jacob and Chai Lifeline. 

Jacob is a very happy kid despite his condition, according to his mom. He's on his school's basketball  team, is very social and has lots of friends. 

“He's spunky and he's smart. He's always a positive, delicious boy,” Rachel says. “I feel like part of it is because my husband and I made a clear decision early on to just treat him normally. My hope for him is that he's going to grow up to be a normal, functioning part of society. I want to treat him how I'd treat him if he had a feeding tube or not. I feel that played a tremendous role in him being able to integrate and feel normal—not different.” 

Rachel, Jacob and their friends and family are looking forward to marathon day in Miami. To learn more about their team, visit Rachel's fundraising page.  

Main image courtesy Rachel Hersko.

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Barbara Russo

Author: Barbara Russo is a freelance writer who holds a bachelor's degree in communications from the City University of New York. She enjoys playing guitar, following current events, and hanging out with her pet rabbits. See More

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