Paying back his cousin's kindness

Family, friends and supports filled up the first two rows of the normally sparsely populated Fountain Valley City Council Chambers on Nov. 16 to watch a 12-year-old boy be honored for using his bar mitzvah project to rally the community around his cousin.

Wearing black, rectangle-framed glasses, shaggy hair and a red T-shirt matching many in the audience, 12-year-old Jeremy Tucker stood at the dais to be recognized.

"This young man has done something most adults can't do," Mayor Larry Crandall said.

Jeremy used his bar mitzvah project to better someone's life.

The project is traditionally a chance to serve the community or help someone in need. Jeremy made his personal.

The Harry C. Fulton Middle School seventh-grader was set to hold a bowl-a-thon for Tourette syndrome, which he battles daily, when he got the news about his cousin, Jeremy said in an interview at his Fountain Valley home.

Tiffany Cowan, 31, of Tustin was in a car accident on Father's Day that left her paralyzed from the neck down. A South Coast College student studying to become a court reporter, she didn't have medical insurance.

She was in the hospital for about three months and now has some movement in her hands, but she has a long way to, said Mike Tucker, Jeremy's father.

"It's been a tough fight," he said.

Cowan depends on a ventilator and feeding tube and isn't able to get the full physical therapy she needs, Tucker said.

After learning about the recovery battle his cousin faces, Jeremy decided to change his project to benefit her.

"I wanted my bar mitzvah to have real meaning," Jeremy said at the council meeting.

Cowan was one of Jeremy's family members who stepped up to help take care of him as a baby when his birth mother was unable to do so, Tucker said. Only in high school at the time, Cowan would help take Jeremy to doctor visits and the like, he said. Tucker is Jeremy's adoptive father.

Jeremy, with his family, pre-sold about 100 tickets for the bowl-a-thon in October, but more of the community stepped up.

People with no connection to Jeremy showed up to bowl and help out after hearing Cowan's story, Tucker said.

Jeremy said that he had hoped to raise about $1,500, but was shocked to find out he had raised about $5,500.

"My heart was just bursting with joy," Jeremy said at the council meeting.

With the money, Cowan's mother, whom she lives with in Tustin, was able to buy a used van that allowed her to transport Cowan back and forth to the hospital and physical therapy sessions.

Jeremy turns 13 in two weeks and will be done with his project, but for him and his family, it is only the beginning.

"It's a constant battle to keep raising money for her," Tucker said. "This isn't going to be just a bar mitzvah project, but a life project."

How to Help

To make donations to Tiffany Cowan's recovery, visit

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