by Lauren Dunn



HUNTERSVILLE – In his four years, Jackson Laskowski’s journey has not been an easy one. He has battled cancer twice, had 14 masses removed from his lungs along with multiple rounds of chemotherapy and, last summer, received a liver transplant. But through it all, he’s remained the sweet, loving little boy family and friends adore.

To celebrate that spirit and pay for some of his medical bills, the second annual Keep HOPE Alive gala takes place Sept. 23 at the Oasis Shrine Temple Headquarters in Charlotte. There will be live and silent auctions, dinner and dancing, all to help Jackson in what is being called “Jackson’s Journey.”

That journey began when Jackson was 2, when he was diagnosed with liver cancer. It had already metastasized and spread to his lungs. After undergoing 11 rounds of chemotherapy and countless doctor visits, Jackson was pronounced cancer free in August 2010.

By February, 4-year-old Jackson’s cancer returned, thrusting him back into the life of a child cancer patient – a life he doesn’t quite understand.

“Jackson has been such a little trooper,” said Lori Laskowski, Jackson’s aunt from Huntersville. “He wants to bounce back. He wants to play. When he was in the hospital, he wanted to go home and play. He’d say, ‘Mommy, why can’t I do this? Mommy, why can’t I do that?’”

As any toddler, Jackson has his heroes. His favorites are Superman and Buzz Lightyear. While in the hospital during his first diagnosis, Jackson got a portable DVD player and fell in love with the movie “Toy Story.”

“To infinity and beyond!” – Buzz Lightyear’s anthem in the film – became Jackson’s favorite phrase and, fittingly, his motto. So, when the friends decided to make and sell bracelets to raise money for the Laskowski family, “to infinity and beyond” was inscribed on one side of the band, while the other side read “Jackson’s Journey.”

Jackson’s journey has been strenuous – for him and his family – but his mother admires her son’s resilience.

“He is the strongest person I know to be able to endure the things he does,” Maggie Laskowski said.

The family has had to endure a lot in recent years, but Maggie Laskowski said relatives, friends and their faith that brings them hope.

At St. Thomas Aquinas, where the Laskowskis are members, Jackson is repeatedly brought to the altar and anointed with prayers.

“Prayer is a powerful thing,” Maggie Laskowski said. “We believe wholeheartedly in it.”

Looking to the future no matter the odds, the Laskowskis have signed Jackson up to start soccer this Saturday, Aug. 27, and are preparing him to return to day care at St. Thomas Aquinas after 18 months away.

According to his mom, it’s a lot of prayer, hope and courage that keep this family going to infinity and beyond.

Want to help?

For more information about the Keep HOPE Alive gala Sept. 23 at Oasis Shrine Temple Headquarters in Charlotte, 604 Doug Mayes Place, Charlotte, or to donate to help pay for Jackson Laskowski’s medical bills as well as the Levine Children's Hospital, visit at www.jacksonlaskowski.com. To read more about Jackson’s Journey visit www.caringbridge.org/visit/jacksonlaskowski.