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Help this young helper

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | December 17, 2020 1:08 AM

The goodness and kindness that Jacob Markham has shown in his 14 years are inspiring to people of any age.

He has been known to grab a shovel and clear away the snow for a sick neighbor, for whom he also insists on grocery shopping so she doesn't have to go into the community and risk getting sicker.

Jacob, a freshman at Lake City High School, is also known for creating PowerPoint presentations with jokes and encouraging quotes to send to his teachers and parents to lift them up that day.

"We just love the person that he is," his mom, Christy Markham, said in a phone interview Tuesday. "You try to do a good job with your kids, but then totally on their own, they do some cool stuff.

"Jacob takes that to a whole new level," she said, a smile in her voice. "He's his own special creature."

Jacob is presently in recovery mode as he heals from a six-hour emergency operation on his brain. Weeks of headaches and vision problems prompted his mom to take him to the eye doctor on Nov. 30. The doctor called in an ophthalmology specialist, who immediately sent Jacob to the emergency room.

That was a Monday, when a rare craniopharyngioma tumor was found in his brain.

"Then Thursday, they told us, 'We’re scheduling him for surgery at noon, it's coming out now,'" Markham said. "It’s huge. The doctor told us this is just incredibly rare, that they maybe diagnose 200 cases a year in the United States."

She said he could have been born with it and it has just been growing this whole time.

"They’ve removed almost all of it," Markham said. "There's just a tiny little remnant. It's just something he will live with the rest of his life. He has an MRI in three months, and they can't promise anything beyond that."

After surgery and 24 staples in his scalp, Jacob's recovery has been slow and his short-term memory and peripheral vision have been affected.

"He’s always had this, but we found out two weeks ago," Markham said. "Our lives won't be the same after this."

However, Markham said he's finally sounding more like his old self.

"It sounds like him, he's in there," she said.

The generosity that Jacob exudes is in his genes. His mom is the development director at the Salvation Army Kroc Center, where she organizes fundraising events and tirelessly works to support the Salvation Army and her community.

Dad, Ben Markham, is a teacher at Skyway Elementary who has spent years teaching underprivileged kids and creating opportunities for learning and growth through a robotics program.

Ben's parents are the former leaders of the Kroc Center, Majors Ben and Joanne Markham, and Christy's mom, Nancy Larsen, taught in Coeur d'Alene for years and now is the superintendent in Kellogg.

Jacob has always cared about others. In 2018, he was awarded the Idaho Youth Philanthropist of the Year. He has spent many winter break days singing carols and ringing the Salvation Army bell to raise money for his community. This year, he won't be able to, but he has asked that his buddies go for him. And they will.

Even while he's recovering from surgery, Christy said Jacob was well enough to shovel his neighbor's walkway.

"He is making us let her know she can still count on us to pick up groceries," Christy said.

Christmas is going to be extra special in the Markham household as Mom, Dad and little sister Ellie, 8, hold each other and Jacob a little tighter this year.

"I can’t imagine doing this without a partner, between the two of us being there for Jake and keeping it somewhat normal for Ellie," Christy said. "Let’s focus on this minute on this day and not think too much about the future."

Friends have created the "Help Jacob Recover" GoFundMe page to raise at least $10,000 to offset out-of-pocket expenses and ongoing costs not covered by insurance.

When Christy asked Jacob what he misses most and what he's looking forward to doing again, he responded: "The ability to see all my friends and family again. I do miss most of the band and orchestra things I was doing. I think I'll say science, with Mr. Essler."

Info: https://bit.ly/3ntSblW

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Courtesy photo

Jacob Markham, 14, is seen here with his dad, Ben Markham, on Dec. 4, one day after undergoing brain surgery at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital to remove a large mass in his brain. He is now home with his mom, dad and sister Ellie.

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Courtesy photo

Markham siblings Jacob, 14, and Ellie, 8, are seen here Oct. 8 on Tubbs Hill, when their family swam in Lake Coeur d'Alene one more time before the weather turned colder. Jacob is now recovering from an emergency surgery that removed a mass from his brain.