Throughout the month of March, students at Helen Keller Middle School participated in Mikey’s Madness, a charity campaign organized to raise money to buy toys and electronics that help to alleviate the boredom children battling cancer often experience in hospitals.
The Mikey’s Way Foundation is an organization that was started by Michael “Mikey” Friedman, an Easton resident who attended Hellen Keller Middle School and graduated from Joel Barlow High School, who was diagnosed with cancer in the ninth grade. Mikey decided to use his Make-a-Wish funds to help other children with cancer overcome the boredom and loneliness he often faced in hospitals while undergoing treatment by providing them with gaming consoles and other toys. Mikey lost his battle with cancer in October of 2008.
“Before the pandemic, we were all face-to-face at the hospital during a Mikey’s Way Day,” said Les Friedman, Mikey Friedman’s father and Chief Executive Officer of the Mikey’s Way Foundation. “We would push the carts stacked with five different electronics into the room and we would say, ‘Pick the one that’s best for you.'”
Friedman recalled when Mikey told him he wanted to start the charity with his one wish granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“Truthfully, I was like ‘No, no, no. We want to go to Europe,'” said Friedman. “But then he said, ‘I want something big,’ and by that I think he was trying to say, ‘I want to be remembered. I want it to be meaningful,’ and he came up with the idea on his own.”
Some staff members taught Mikey when he was a student at Helen Keller and remember him well.
“Mikey was my student when I taught Spanish for seventh-grade,” said Annie Mohr, now an assistant vice principal. “It’s common in middle school to feel shy or feel connected to certain friends and not others, but Mikey was different in the way that he looked at everything with such a genuine heart. I think we knew then that he was going to change the world, and he did.”
Principal Steve Clapp and his daughter were also touched by Mikey and his contributions to the world, which has further strengthened his bonds with the school.
“My daughter is a leukemia survivor. She’s healthy now, but when she was undergoing treatment, she had a Mikey’s Way Day, which was this amazing moment that she still remembers,” said Clapp. “Her eyes lit up and ended up picking a Leap Pad and used it over her two years of treatment. To know that this foundation started at Helen Keller and to come here to be principal, I think it was a sign that this was the right place to put effort into.”
Some of the events during the month were designated Spirit Days (Hat Day, Crazy Hair Day and PJ Day). There were Snack Stands, Student and Student vs. Faculty Basketball Games, a Kids Baking Challenge, a Virtual Talent Show, Making Friendship Bracelets, creating “A Video to Make You Smile.” The events culminated with a finale celebration held on Mikey’s birthday.
“I love cooking so I decided to try out baking,” said student Zachary Jhilal, who participated in the baking competition. “I’ve already been donating and I’ve tried to be in as many competitions as possible, not just one. I like donating and helping people out. I’m a Boy Scout and that’s pretty much what we do.”
Other students were just as enthused about helping to raise money for Mikey’s Madness.
“We put a stand outside of the cafeteria during our school’s production of ‘Annie Jr.’ and also walked around with boxes of bracelets,” said student Lucy Zima, who participated in making and selling friendship bracelets. “Recently, we placed bracelets at the Easton Village Store, Ciao Bella and we’re working on getting them at Greiser’s and other places as well.”
With an original goal of raising $5,000, the students easily surpassed the number with a total of $7,140 on the last day of Mikey’s Madness. In his closing speech, Friedman thanked the students for all their time and effort in honor of both Mikey and the Mikey’s Way Foundation.
“In the fifteen years since Mikey passed, there have been a lot of fundraisers, schools and galas, but nothing comes even close to what you guys did,” said Friedman. “You dedicated the entire month for Mikey, and I know my family will never forget this.”
To learn how you can help continue Mikey’s legacy, click here to get involved.
Photos by Sophie Camizzi and the HKMS staff