JACKSON – For one day, a township youngster whose dream is to be a police officer, got his wish.
Shannon Kulesa said her 8-year-old son Jake, who was joined by his brothers, had the thrill of a lifetime not thanks to the Jackson Police Department.
As a baby, Jake was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. His dream is to be a police officer and on a SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) Team. He and his family recently got to visit and take part in some training with the Jackson Special Response Team.
“It was really cool. I had a very, very, good time. It was so much fun. I want to do it again,” Jake said.
Shannon said, “you couldn’t find a happier kid in the world following that activity. Jake’s dream is to grow up and be a police officer on the SWAT team. Well, an amazing Sargent over at the Jackson Police Department got wind of this dream and surprised Jake, picking him up from school and taking him and his brothers for some training.
“Our boys had a great time,” she said. “Thanks go out to Sgt. Mike Grochowski for organizing the day and to all the officers who assisted.”
Law enforcement runs in the family.
“My father (Captain Steven Burke) has 30 years in law enforcement and Jake’s hero is my dad who is retired and living in Barnegat,” she said.
Watching the training was a great break from treatment.
“Jake had been in trials for a hyperbolic chamber and did really, really well in it and has gotten so many positive benefits from it but once his trial was over all his pain came back and he started struggling again and he had problems sleeping. We ended up putting him back on pain medication,” she added.
Shannon said the medication he takes three times a day “turns him into a zombie practically and a friend of ours who got us into the trials to begin with said we have to get him his own chamber. He wanted to do a fundraiser because they are $25,000 so he put together – along with a number of local businesses in town – a fundraiser.”
The fundraiser and the media attention brought in good Samaritans who also wanted to help. One of those calls was from Sgt. Grochowski.
“The PBA wanted to present a check to Jake’s foundation and when he stopped by the house to present the check, I told him that Jake has his own Facebook page. When Jake was 4 ½ he had spine surgery and it was easier to do a Facebook page for friends and family to find out what was going on than it was to be making phone calls to people from the hospital,” she said.
During that time the family spent a lot of time at the hospital for three months. Shannon said various police departments saw that and sent him patches and Lego sets. Grochowski asked about the police patches and she told him this was Jake’s dream. He said, “Oh, I got to go back and talk to the guys and see what we can do.”
A few weeks later Jake received the chamber. His father Gary helped him adjust to it and now he considers it his own private sanctuary. His mother said, “he was out of pain again and the sergeant called and he said, what do you think? Do you think he’s ready?”
Jake was ready and this special event would also include his two brothers, his twin brother Aiden and his 11-year-old brother Kyle, and his mom would be there to observe all the fun.
Prior to that she and Sgt. Grochowski went to pick up Jake from Switlik Elementary School in a police car. “They walked him and his brother a little early to avoid the bus traffic and the sergeant told him he’d bring him to the police department for SWAT training. I think Jake laughed from the time he was at the school to his arrival at the training center,” she said.
“He was so excited and later told everybody that he was there. They got to meet the K-9 dogs and watch them be trained, they got to play with the night vision heat sensors. They have these little houses set up so they have to hide in the house and the SWAT team swept through to find them. He had an absolute ball,” she said.
Jake said, “my favorite part was riding in the police car and yelling on the microphone.”
His mother said the police made “such a big deal out of him. There was a dozen (officers) at least. They were showing him the different ways they slow people down and they had a guy dressed in a protective suit and had him pretend to run out of a car and run and the dog chased him and took him down.”
Shannon said that Jake was also introduced to flash bombs that they throw to disorient the bad guys and Jake asked if they could have some to bring home. He didn’t get any of those, but he did, however, get hats and shirts.
She noted some of the officers were members of a police and military support group and after the fundraiser for the chamber, and a foundation was formed to help others, they were able to exchange bracelets from the foundation and the support organization bracelets. “They got to trade them and they were wearing both bracelets.”
To learn more, visit jakesgotthis.org or the Facebook page Jake’s Got This Foundation.