Trip of a lifetime for ‘champion child’ |

Trip of a lifetime for ‘champion child’

by Sheila Gardner

When you ask Joey Jacobsen what it felt like to meet President Obama at the White House, the 14-year-old is speechless at first.

“You can’t describe it,” he begins.

Then the Pau-Wa-Lu ninth grader warms to the subject. “Meeting the president, it was so, so cool to see the most powerful man in the world just a foot away from me.”

Joey and his family – parents Tim and Robbi, and big brother Timmy – traveled to Washington, D.C., and Orlando, Fla., in Joey’s role as Nevada’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospital’s Champion Child.

He joined children from each state for the whirlwind trip in September which culminated in high-fiving the president.

“I wasn’t nervous,” Joey said.

Before meeting the president, the champion children and their families were given the run of the White House.

“We went through security to get in, and the staff told us, ‘Make yourself at home,’ so we did,” Robbi Jacobsen said.

They poked through cabinets in the kitchen, checked out the dishes in a state dining room, found a trace of dust on a window sill, and wandered from room, to room, occasionally encountering Bo, the Obamas’ dog.

The Jacobsens weren’t sure the president’s schedule would accommodate meeting the children and their families.

They were assembled on risers for picture taking, when a door opened, and Tim Jacobsen saw the red carpet so familiar in pictures of the president.

“All of a sudden, President Obama came walking down the hallway all by himself,” Tim said. “We were right in the middle of the risers and had a great view of him coming in the room.”

“He told the kids to stay strong, to believe in themselves; that life is full of adversity that you meet head on, then go on with your life,” Robbi said.

After the champion children left Washington, D.C., they flew to Orlando where they continued to be greeted as celebrities.

One of their sponsors, Delta Airlines, chartered a special plane for the families, and they traveled with Miss America Laura Kaeppeler and musician Mark Wills.

The trip concluded with a medals ceremony hosted by Nick Cannon and a performance by Jordin Sparks.

As the champion child, Joey is the ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in Nevada for the next two years.

It was four years ago on Thanksgiving Day that Joey was critically injured in a wood-cutting accident in Markleeville.

He was flown to Renown Regional Medical Center and defied all odds of recovery.

In a letter to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Robbi recounted Joey’s journey.

“Joey was given an hour to live…you know the rest, the miracle that occurred. He did live, and today does amazingly well. And while we fully understand what was taken from him on the beautiful November morning can never be replaced, we are equally confident that what he’s been given can never be taken away.

“His sports playing days are over, but his zest for life (and yes, sports, too), is bigger and stronger than ever,” she said.

After Christmas, Joey is facing his first surgery in 3-1/2 years.

He is now 5 feet, 11 inches tall, and is affected by scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, triggered by his injury, and confinement to a wheel chair.

The surgery is to be performed at Renown, by the same physicians who cared for Joey after the accident.

He’ll be home-schooled for three months as he recovers. Robbi said he can’t risk getting bumped or jostled at school.

Next year, he’ll be a sophomore at Douglas High School. Timmy Jacbosen graduates from DHS in June.

“Life is filled with irony,” Robbi wrote in her letter to CMN. “Who could have ever linked the worst event in our life to the greatest trip and seven days our family has experienced? You have given us the courage and strength to go on and life the lives God intended us to live.”