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From Injury To Inspiration

When Berner Middle School eighth-grader Jason Kopp, 13, separated his growth plate in his shoulder and couldn’t play baseball, he spent his weekends crafting brightly colored rubber band bracelets and came up with an idea. Knowing October was Breast Cancer Awareness month, Hopp figured he could turn his crafting skills into a fundraiser for breast cancer research.

After discussing the idea with family members, the young man made a sign out of pink oaktag, dressed himself in pink attire — everything from socks to sweatshirts to sunglasses — and set up a stand, much like a lemonade stand, on the sidewalk of his Massapequa Park home, located near Sunrise Highway. He displayed his pink creations, priced at $2 per bracelet and $1 per ring. By the end of the first October weekend he raised more than $100. Fired up by the response, the 13-year-old tripled his pink wardrobe for the cause and rode his bike around his neighborhood handing out fliers.  

“I decided to set a goal of $500. So I brought them into school to sell to my friends, and then used social media to spread the word,” he said.

By the end of October, the Massapequa Park teen surpassed his goal by raising more than $600 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which advances research in the fight against breast cancer through fundraiser efforts in more than 50 countries.

Kopp had no personal connection to the disease when he started his fundraiser, but his efforts hit home when his mother’s high school friend, Tracy Fitzpatrick, a breast cancer survivor, came to visit and support him.

“That was the best part of the fundraiser because that opened my eyes to why I was doing this,” Kopp said. “I only spent about $30 on rubber bands and made a lot more to help find a cure. I really enjoyed doing it. It brought a lot of smiles. The lesson I learned here is, ‘you have to give back’.”    

The industrious teenager also had the backing of his teachers and administrators at Berner Middle School.

Principal Jason Esposito said Kopp’s actions should serve as an inspiration to his classmates and the community at large.

“Jason’s initiative to make a difference in the lives of those stricken with this disease is inspiring and is a shining example for all of our students to emulate,” said Esposito. “We are extremely proud of him.”

Spanish teacher Jamie Mare said Kopp’s initiative was a dynamic force and prompted her to do what she could to assist him.

“I was so impressed that he did this on his own, with no connection to the school that I had to help spread the word to my colleagues to support his efforts,” she said.

But perhaps Kopp’s guidance counselor put it best when reflecting on the young man’s mission.

“The world needs more Jason Kopps,” he said.