Kick Stands Up to Kick Cancer Out
There are those people in life who just stand out. Jere was one. His friend, James, described him as passionate, kind, and devoted but also relentless and independent. They met playing soccer and quickly forged a bond. Jere was easy to like and at times, hard to keep up with. He talked James into riding motorcycles with him, and soon they were spending even more time together.
In 2016, Jere developed a cough during the soccer season that sent him to the doctor for antibiotics. Even though the cough persisted, Jere continued to play through it. He played three adult-league games one Sunday despite his condition. When he came home coughing, his wife finally made him go to the emergency room for a chest x-ray. While she suspected he had pneumonia, no one was prepared for what they found: a 4-inch mass in his chest that was restricting oxygen to his left lung and wrapped around his aorta. Jere had Non-Hodgkin’s B-cell Lymphoma.
“I couldn’t believe it,” recalled James. “He played three games with that tumor. And he didn’t just play, he out-hustled all of us! But he was so positive that, from the beginning, we felt he would beat it.”
His treatment began immediately with aggressive chemo and a bone marrow transplant. During this time, Jere made several trips to Atlanta for medical procedures. It was there that he witnessed something that rocked him to the core: children fighting cancer. He saw the pain, suffering, confusion, and emotional stress that children endured beside him, and he couldn’t stand it.
“He wasn’t a guy to sit back and do nothing,” James said. “He knew he had to help, so he gathered his friends and family and we started planning a poker run.”
During his down time, Jere searched for pediatric cancer organizations in Savannah and found CURE’s website. He immediately made contact to discuss the poker run fundraiser. During the call, he mentioned he had some “health issues” but said he would be fine in time for the event.
Downplaying the severity of his health issues, Jere continued his treatment and began to recover. But he could never gain weight. When it came time for his next x-ray, doctors found that his original tumor was gone but several more spots had popped up in other locations. After a month, Jere was sent home on hospice, and his family and friends descended on the house to bid him farewell.
“I went over there and asked him how he was doing, and he mostly wanted to talk about the poker run,” James said. “Before I left, he made me promise that we would do it no matter what. He died two days later.”
A few months after his funeral, Jere’s wife, parents, and friends began planning in earnest for the poker run in Jere’s memory. They named it Kickstands up to Kick Cancer Out as a way to honor Jere’s passion for both motorcycles and soccer. They also created an organization called Jet’s Cure which takes its name from Jere’s biker name: Jet. The mission of Jet’s Cure is to focus entirely on fundraising for childhood cancer causes.
The first poker run was a huge success. It even included a motorcycle stunt show. Forty riders participated in the Poker Run, and 120 people attended the stunt show. The event raised nearly $5000 for the cause that Jere believed in so much. Jet’s Cure is planning on the Poker Run to become an annual event, hopefully growing each year. Jet’s Cure also plans to deliver toys to hospitalized childhood cancer patients.
All of this because of one man’s big heart and determination to make a difference.