From a Heartrending Challenge to a Passionate Dream

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Cancer

Jack Witherspoon was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) at two years of age. To say that much of Jack's life has been spent within the walls of Miller Children's Hospital Long Beach would be an understatement. Out of boredom while hospitalized during his first relapse, Jack turned to the Cooking Channel. Soon he was chatting away with nurses and visitors about his love of food. And that lead to the birth of a dream—becoming a chef and opening his own restaurant.

But beneath his growing ambition was the nagging question, "Why do kids get cancer?" The more he learned, the more he realized there wasn't a simple answer—more knowledge is needed, much more. Jack decided that he had to do something to help, which led to his first experience in fundraising. At age seven, Jack worked with H.T. Grill restaurant in Redondo Beach and created a "Cooking Up Dreams" event.

Packing in 300 guests, as well as local and national media, Jack raised nearly $36,000 for the Jonathan Jaques Children's Cancer Center at Miller Children's Hospital Long Beach. And that was just his first event. He has never looked back. There is now a room in the new Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Unit with his name on the door—a result of all his efforts.

The wind was knocked out of Jack's sails last year when he relapsed. But that didn't stop him from authoring a new cookbook. "Twisting it Up," Jack's own take on comfort food, was released in January 2012 (available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon). Jack is now doing great and was in New York on a book signing tour when he was surprised by Rachel Ray who invited him to her studio. She topped off the surprise with a $5,000 check for the endowment that bears Jack's name at the Memorial Medical Center Foundation for pediatric cancer research.

For Jack it is about impacting the lives of children who are yet to be born. As for fundraising, Jack says, "The more I raise, the more it feels so right." And raise money he has. This 12-year-old has contributed more than $225,000 for pediatric cancer research! Watch out Bill Gates.