By Starrla Cray
COKATO, MN Four months and 11 days.
That’s how long Jax Lanz had on Earth, but in that short time, his life left a lasting impression on many.
“Even when Jax was sick, he had incredible strength. He smiled, even in hospice,” recalled his mother, Raquel Lanz, who moved to Cokato with her husband, Jordan, in September.
When Jax was born June 2, 2014, Raquel described him as a “happy, healthy” baby. The family had a memorable summer with their firstborn son, but when he turned 3 months old, they discovered that something wasn’t right.
“He had a wandering eye, and he started having seizures,” Raquel said.
She and Jordan took Jax to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, where he was diagnosed with a rare and fast-growing cancerous tumor of the brain and spinal cord, called atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (ATRT).
“He was given less than a 1 percent chance of survival,” Raquel said.
And less than two months later, Oct. 13, Jax passed away peacefully in his parents’ arms.
Even though he’s no longer here, Jax is still making a difference today.
“We try to do things to still spread his joy,” Raquel said.
For Jax’s first birthday, the Lanz family served supper at the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis, a place they had frequented during Jax’s illness.
This year, to commemorate Jax’s golden birthday (June 2), the Lanz family is planning to have a lemonade stand outside The Marketplace in Cokato Thursday, June 2 and Friday, June 3 from 3 to 6 p.m. All money raised will go to help children with cancer.
“I’m really looking forward to his birthday in a special way this year,” Raquel said.
The idea to have a lemonade stand came from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), an organization named after Alexandra “Alex” Scott, who was diagnosed with cancer just before her first birthday. To help raise money for a cancer cure, Alex and her older brother, Patrick, set up a lemonade stand in front of their house.
After Alex passed away in 2004, at age 8, her parents began ALSF to continue the work that Alex began. Since 2005, more than 55,000 ALSF lemonade stand events have taken place around the world, raising more than $120 million.
Raquel noted that childhood cancer is underfunded compared to adult cancer, even though the disease is not rare. According to ALSF, one in 285 children in the US will be diagnosed with cancer by the time they are 20 years old.
Raquel said the goal for her lemonade stand June 2 and 3 is to raise $400, which pays for one day of childhood cancer research.
“We thought it would be a great way to meet people in the community, spread awareness of childhood cancer, and honor our son,” she added.
Although Raquel, Jordan, and their 7-month-old daughter, DelilahRae, haven’t been in Cokato long, they are already enjoying being part of the community.
“We love the small-town feel,” Raquel said, explaining that they chose Cokato because it is rural, but still has close proximity to the Twin Cities.
During the lemonade stand birthday celebration outside The Marketplace, Raquel said she hopes to honor Jax’s memory, and help other parents whose children are affected by cancer.
In February 2015, Raquel summed up her feelings with a Facebook post, excerpted below:
“Jax was, and still is, my firstborn son. Nothing, even death, can take away or replace a mother’s love for her child.”
Lemonade in Cokato June 2-3
In honor of Jax Lanz’s golden birthday, lemonade will be for sale outside The Marketplace in Cokato (310 Cokato St. W.) from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday, June 2 and Friday, June 3. All money raised will go to fund childhood cancer research. For those who aren’t able to make it to the lemonade party, donations can be made online at www.alexslemonade.org.