Jetsun Jacobs' whole life changed at age 8 when suddenly his left eye stopped moving. He was diagnosed with bone cancer.
The tumor the size of a lemon was discovered, but a heavy dose of medication wiped it away in six months.
But the bouts of chemotherapy over the course of the next two years took their toll, making him incredibly tired.
That's when his whole life changed — again. Ten years old at the time, he was given the opportunity by the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Seattle.
He chose a trip to Walt Disney World outside Orlando, Fla., where he swam with dolphins, learned to laugh again and act like a kid — experiences that were temporarily lost to illness. On Thursday, he told his heart-wrenching story to students who belong to the Make-A-Wish Club at Corona del Mar High School. The students listened intently to Jacobs' sad story that, fortunately, ended on a happy note.
Now 30, Jacobs is a Make-A-Wish ambassador, and he was at the school to hand the club a special certification for having raised $4,000 to help a 13-year-old Huntington Beach student who was stricken with a similar bone cancer and would now like to go to Disneyland.
He's going to get his wish.
"Thank you for all that you do so that dreams like mine come true," said Jacobs, who spoke inside CdM's student resource center, where a dozen students from the club met for pizza and accolades.
It was no easy task raising the money for the student, whose first name is Joshua, said club members Kiara Daswani and Allie Garrett, a junior and senior, respectively, at CdM.
They said pounds of See's Candies had to be sold at the Beacon Bay Car Wash near Fashion Island. It took a year to raise the cash. This is not the first time the club has helped children make their wishes come true. Two years ago, the club helped a 17-year-old girl, Kayla Y., who had cystic fibrosis, record her own album. Just last year, money was raised to help Bryce C. take a trip to Disneyland.
Many of the club members have volunteered at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, St. Joseph Hospital's Cancer Center and at other locations, making the Make-A-Wish Foundation a logical beneficiary.
"When you go to the hospitals and you start to see sick kids, it really hits you hard," said student Allie Garrett. "You really want to do something for [them]."
There was a time that the Make-A-Wish Club, she added, would hold carnivals for the sick children, but a few years ago the Newport-Mesa Unified School District phased it out. Now the club's priority is raising money for at least one sick child a year. In order to qualify, the children who are helped must be between the ages of 2 and 18.
Denise Weiland, who is in charge of community service for the high school, said all students have to log at least 40 hours in community volunteering before they can graduate.
"Most of them do much, much more," she said.