Part 2 of a series. Read Part 1 at .
The not-so-long comeback to the athletic field only tells a sliver of the story of the last 10 months of the lives of the Jason Garstkiewicz and his parents.
Over that time they have met countless strangers-turned-friends who provided support ranging from inspirational words and prayers, to financial contributions and services around the family’s home. The outreach gave a couple already happy with their surroundings a whole new appreciation for the community they live in.
“It’s been phenomenal,” his father Gary Garstkiewicz said of the support. “My wife and I grew up in Haddonfield and we always thought it was a great place to live, but until you go through something like this and see everyone doing something to help, you really can’t grasp just how amazing the people are.”
It wasn’t only the people of Haddonfield who went out of their way to give a helping hand, either.
Early in the year, Pam and Gary Garstkiewicz were introduced to Beth Stefanacci, of Merchantville. Stefanacci started Go4theGoal, a foundation to help families cope with and raise awareness about pediatric cancer, after her son, Richard, died in 2007.
Go4theGoal led a shoelace campaign that raised nearly $30,000 for the Garstkiewicz family as well as the family of Colin Hough, another borough child who was diagnosed with cancer.
The campaign—which started in mid-February—raised money just a few dollars at a time by selling green shoelaces which can now be seen on shoes throughout the area. It didn’t take long for word of the foundation to spread well beyond Haddonfield community.
“When you see an entire organization from a different town all have laces on to support your kid it makes you step back and see how good people can be when they want to,” Gary said. “It spread all the way to Penn State University and went big. You can never say thank you enough and could never imagine getting that type of support. You get focused in your own little word when you go through something like that and it’s not until you get out of that word and see the people all over the street with the laces in that it really sets in how much people care."
After all of the positive reinforcement he received, Jason is now focusing on helping other young kids who are going through the same situation he has.
As recent as Tuesday night, Jason was texting an 11-year-old who he met while learning about amputation and prosthetics, and they are helping each other get through situations the majority of kids their age could never so much as contemplate. He also keeps in touch with a rugby player who lost his leg as a teenager, but is attending the University of Colorado and continuing his athletic ambitions.
So what’s next for Jason?
He’s not limiting himself to just lacrosse these days. He has his mind set on going out for basketball in the winter and even making a run at the freshman football team at Haddonfield Memorial High School next fall.
His goals are very much the same as other middle school student. And for the Garstkiewiczs that’s the best news they could ever hope for.
“Sometimes you almost forget that he has it and then you are reminded that it is something he will always have to deal with,” Gary said. “It’s amazing to say that he has never been in a dark place about it. He just goes on with his life.”