Few PEOPLE story subjects in the recent past have touched readers as deeply as Jesse Englander. A tough-talking but tenderhearted seventh grader from Brooklyn, he was featured in our July 15, 2002, issue as one of four teens caring for a seriously ill parent. After learning how Jesse, 14, had nursed his mother, Rosemary Sumner, through her two-year struggle with multiple sclerosis, dozens of people wrote to offer a wheelchair, a hospital bed and other aid. “I am so proud of Jesse,” said Sumner, who called the magazine three days after the article’s publication. “I’m so glad others can see what a good kid he is.”
That night Sumner suddenly stopped breathing. Jesse called for an ambulance. At the hospital, doctors struggled for two hours to revive Sumner. When he could, Jesse—the only family member present—held his mother’s hand, gently urging her to wake up. But at 3:57 a.m. Sumner was pronounced dead at age 48, apparently of a blood clot that had traveled to her heart.
Now, at times angry, at times bereft—”I’d give anything to hear her yell at me one more time,” he says of his mom—Jesse is back home, looking after his 85-year-old grandmother Rose Sumner, who is also ailing and often hospitalized. His dedication remains unflagging. “I’m staying with Grandma,” he says, “as long as she’s alive.”
Beyond that, Jesse’s fate remains uncertain: No other relatives have volunteered to serve as his guardian. Though he worries about his future, household finances are a more pressing concern, compelling him to work at a local newsstand while attending summer school. Now out of work and looking for a new job, he has already earmarked a portion of his future earnings for school clothes for the fall and for a cell phone. “That way,” says Jesse, “Grandma will be able to reach me wherever I am and whenever she needs me.”
Knowing how affected readers were by Jesse’s plight, we wanted to present this update on his situation. “People magazine has always provided a powerful connection for its readers,” says associate publisher/ marketing Dan Osheyack. “And they often look for ways to respond to the stories they read here, turning their empathy for the subjects into action.”
Readers who wish to assist Jesse and other children like him may send tax-deductible donations to the OUR CHILDREN first Fund, c/o Entertainment Industry Foundation, 11132 Ventura Blvd., Suite 401, Studio City, CA 91604.
If you have questions about the OUR CHILDREN first Fund, contact Merrily Newton, Entertainment Industry Foundation, 818-760-7722.