The McAlexander Family and Hansen Home for Hope
“The person with cancer isn’t the only one affected by this horrible disease,” said Kerri McAlexander of Rockwell City, whose son, Jacy, was diagnosed in second grade with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare type of cancerous tumor that grows in the bones or the soft tissue around the bones. “It changes everyone in your family.”
Even after Jacy received his initial diagnosis in 2009 and started chemotherapy treatments, he focused on favorite activities, including 4-H. Jacy and his older sister, Brittany, were members of the Logan Larks 4-H Club, whose leaders included Kerri and her husband, Earl.
Jacy loved photography and citizenship projects. “He always set the bar high,” said Kerri who noted that many of Jacy’s projects earned top honors at the Calhoun County Exposition and Iowa State Fair.
Jacy’s mission that drew the most attention, however, was his pop tab collection to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Iowa. “After he reached his initial goal of collecting 1 million pop tabs, he decided to go for a ton,” said Earl McAlexander, a 4-H youth program specialist.
Pop tabs poured in from friends and family who supported Jacy, who was sick almost continuously the last two and a half years of his life. As the disease intensified, Jacy and his family made the two-hour trip to Des Moines more often to the Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Blank Children’s Hospital, which is supported by the Deb and Jeff Hansen Foundation.
“Nothing’s easy when your child has cancer,” said Kerri, who noted that tumors on Jacy’s spine paralyzed him by the spring of 2018. “It’s scary, exhausting and overwhelming, plus you’re trying to keep up with your job and responsibilities at home.”
That’s why the Children’s Cancer Connection’s Hansen Home for Hope is such a lifesaver, Kerri added. “It’s a warm, comforting environment where you can just get away for awhile.”
The McAlexander family also appreciated the care packages the Deb and Jeff Hansen Foundation sent at Valentine’s Day and Halloween. “Those acts of kindness change your attitude about what you’re going through,” Kerri said.
While cancer robbed Jacy of his health, it never conquered his spirit, silenced his courage or corroded his family’s faith. Hours before he passed away on May 16, 2018, Jacy granted an interview to Eric Hanson, a Des Moines television reporter. “It’s worth it, because it helps a charity in our community,” said Jacy as he retold his pop tab success story. “Giving back is important.”