When Keri Jucha was 10 years old, she was rushed to Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego after of week of what seemed like a cold. However, there was nothing routine about this illness. Eight hours after arriving in the ER, she was having lifesaving brain and sinus surgery as a result of a sinus infection that traveled to her brain. The risk and severity were huge. Her recovery is a miracle and Keri spent nine days in the hospital as opposed to the estimated six weeks. During her recovery, a friend gave her beads to help pass the time. Keri started making necklaces and bracelets. After several dozen, she realized she could sell them to raise money for the hospital. Her parents helped her set up an online auction where she auctioned off over 100 pieces of jewelry she made. Keri raised almost $8,000 from her initial fundraiser.
While spending time in the hospital, Keri also realized she could do other things to help. She had the idea to bring the movies to children that were hospitalized. Keri purchased a home movie system for the hospital playroom. It included a portable big screen, AV cart, DVD player, projector, BOSE sound system and dozens of new DVDs for the children to watch. Keri also purchased beanie babies for the children and donated $1,818 to Liam's Fund at the hospital. This organization works to raise money for the neurosurgical department at the hospital.
Keri also decorated the playroom, rolled out a red carpet and handed out tickets she designed for her movie premier. The response from the children was fantastic. The staff and children loved it and the room has been used in ways never anticipated. Teachers can plug in their computers for lesson plans and the children can play games.
At age 12, Keri is still volunteering. With her Bat Mitzvah approaching in May, Keri wanted to do another fundraiser (or mitzvah project) for the hospital in the Jewish tradition of tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world). This time, Keri is raising money to purchase laptop computers, more DVD players and more DVDs. In addition, Kerri wants to do more to help the children's stay at the hospital a bit more bearable.
The Rady Children's Foundation advised they have never had a patient turn around and give back like Keri has. She hatched ideas while she was still in the hospital and her beading project turned into so much more.