The wait for Stephen Hawking to emerge from the depths of the was almost too much for young Jacob Goeders who couldn’t take his eyes off the corner of the building he was told Hawking would appear. And when he caught a glimpse of the famous scientist and author the boy burst with joy.
“I saw him! I saw him!” he told his parents as he bounced up and down on the Intermezzo patio.
It was a wish fulfilled for 11-year-old Jacob who ranks Hawking as the most brilliant man around and an “inspiration to all sick kids” in the world, especially Jacob.
The Mountain View boy has Aspergers Disorder, and was diagnosed with high risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in late 2010. The Make a Wish Foundation agreed to grant him a wish, but Jacob actually had two requests for the nonprofit organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening conditions.
He wanted to meet Hawking and go to Disney World; his solution to the quandary of getting only one wish fulfilled was to meet Hawking at Disney World.
The Make a Wish group didn’t think they could honor that idea, but give the kid credit for his creative thinking. It turns out, thanks to a local wish-granter—the Flint Center—Jacob got to meet Hawking before the famed theoretical physicist took the stage for a presentation on black holes. Later this year, Jacob will go to Disney World, courtesy of the Make a Wish Foundation.
Karen Moultrup, marketing manager of Flint Center, got an email recently from Jacob’s mom, Sherry Goeders, who found out that Hawking was coming to Cupertino. Sherry asked if arrangements could be made to meet Hawking before the event. Moultrup did one better; she got Jacob, Sherry and dad, Todd, tickets to the presentation.
The important event warranted a trip to the store to buy a tie, Sherry said.
Hawking made sure Jacob got time to speak to Hawking, have his picture taken with him and gave him two autographed books, George’s Secret Key to the Universe and A Briefer History of Time—each with Hawking’s thumbprint inside.
“You are a little star. Keep up the good work,” said the message from Hawking to Jacob inside George’s Secret Key to the Universe. It’s Jacob’s second copy of that book, his first was in his mother’s hands in hopes of getting an autograph.
“It’s an honor to meet you,” Jacob said leaning over to Hawking.
“Not only are you the smartest man in the world, you were smart even after you got sick. You’re an inspiration to all sick kids,” he added.
Hawking, who has ALS— amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a motor neurone disease—is completely paralyzed and communicates through a specialized computer that he operates with his cheek muscle.
Hawking has followers and fans worldwide and a group working on a documentary about him for PBS there filming took an interest in Jacob’s story, too. A film crew from Nerdist interviewed Jacob also, further exciting self-proclaimed nerd-dad, Todd who was just as giddy over the whole experience as Jacob. What could be better than a night filled with Hawking and Nerdist?
Jacob loves learning about black holes, stars, and anything science or space related; a trait he inherited from Todd.
“They have these long nerdy talks about science,” Sherry says.
Jacob likes more than just science, he says, there’s also video games to occupy a boy’s interest. That is when he’s not fundraising for cancer research or the other sick children at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital where he’ll continue receiving treatments until 2014.
Before Christmas, Jacob decided he wanted to be Santa Claus to the kids at the hospital. Using his Facebook page Leukemia Slayer, where he has more than 5,500 “likes”, Jacob raised $1,700 to buy toys for them. He’s also set up a lemonade stand through Alex’s Lemonade—a non-profit that helps organize fundraising to fight childhood cancer—at Stanford and collected $300 in one shot. In all, he’s sold $3,000 worth of lemonade.
Little else will compare though to the meeting of Hawking. Sherry says she broke the news to him by asking him to guess who he was going to meet Tuesday night.
“Is it somebody important?” Jacob asked her.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Is it the president?” he queried.
“Better,” she said.
Then the hint gave it away: “black holes,” she told him.
“His mouth hung open and his eyes popped,” Sherry said.
And a little boy’s dream came true at the Flint Center.
Contact Jacob through his Leukemia Slayer Facebook page. For more information about the Flint Center and other events, visit www.flintcenter.com.