Sweet treats for 7-month-old Jackson Diaz

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Poland North Elementary second-grader Arikia Chism makes a purchase from Melissa Kellgren, a member of the parent-teacher organization, during a bake sale Tuesday. The event benefited the Diaz family of Poland, whose 7-month-old son, Jackson, was born with a rare congenital disorder.

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Jackson Diaz was born in June with Apert syndrome, a congenital disorder that affects the skull, face, feet and hands. Only 20 children in the U.S. are born with Apert syndrome each year.

By Ashley Luthern



As a 7-month-old boy from Poland traveled to Philadelphia for medical treatment Tuesday, North Elementary School students, parents and staff offered about 800 sweets at a bake sale to benefit the family.

Jackson Diaz was born in June with Apert syndrome, a congenital disorder that affects the skull, face, feet and hands. Only 20 children in the U.S. each year are born with Apert syndrome.

“We all have sutures in our skull. Jackson’s are all fused together so it could not grow the way it needs. His soft spot is very unique, almost onto his forehead, and when that happened, the only way his head could grow was up, so his head was becoming very tall,” said Melanie Diaz, Jackson’s mom.

The leader of Jackson’s craniofacial team — that includes a plastic surgeon, neurologist and a host of specialists — is based in Philadelphia, where Melanie and her husband, John, have traveled with Jackson at least seven times in the past month.

Jackson recently underwent a post-cranial vault distraction that gradually will separate the back of his skull, which is flat right now. Bone will regenerate there and add volume so his brain can continue growing and developing.

Lisa Weimer, secretary of the Poland North parent-teacher organization, doesn’t know the Diaz family personally but followed Jackson’s story on Facebook.

“I just wanted to do something,” she said.

Weimer and the PTO organized “Sweet Treats for Jackson,” selling baked goods made by teachers and parents for 50 cents to $1 during lunch Tuesday.

Weimer’s son, Anthony, is in fourth grade and said students try to give to others.

“We do random acts of kindness so we can get better and [be] more kind,” Anthony said.

First-grader Jacob Jenkins purchased an M&M cookie and agreed.

“We try to be nice to each other,” he said.

Principal Tracy Kaschak told students about Jackson during morning announcements the past several days.

“We talk about random acts of kindness and doing it not for what you’re getting in return, but because it’s the right thing to do,” she said.

Kaschak said the PTO also agreed that a portion of the spring pepperoni sale will benefit the Diaz family, whose two oldest children, Macy, 16, and Julian, 12, attended North Elementary.

“We have tons of family and friends who are extremely supportive. ... Within our small community, there have literally been so many acts of kindness,” Melanie Diaz said.

Jackson was born June 20, exactly one year after the birth of his brother, Jaden.

“We didn’t know anything was wrong until his birth. The past seven months have been a whirlwind. I can’t describe how it’s gone, but I feel like I’ve had a long journey already in such a short amount of time,” she said.

Melanie was laid off from her online teaching job in June 2011, and her husband works fulltime, but financially, the family with four children doesn’t qualify for assistance with Jackson’s medical treatment. Family and friends are planning a benefit dinner in June.

“From the research I’ve done and the families that I know, he will probably never be fully done with surgeries,” Melanie said.

To keep up with Diaz family and Jackson’s progress, visit their website www.oursunjackson.org.

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