HomeNewsEntertainmentFamily gives back to Make A Wish with music festival

Family gives back to Make A Wish with music festival

Ronnie Barker said it was a busy eight days when they found out nearly a decade ago his son, Jacob, had cancer.

He and his wife noticed something was off with him on a Monday, so they scheduled a visit with his pediatrician for later that week. By Tuesday of the following week, the family was at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis while specialists were figuring out a plan to fight cancer he’d been diagnosed with.

“It was a tough time, that’s for sure,” Ronnie said.

Jacob, who was 2 years old at the time, had been diagnosed with a malignant tumor on his retina.

He was given 11 injections of chemotherapy.

“At first those were working, and then they’d stopped working,” Ronnie said.

So the doctors decided to get more aggressive in the treatment with radiation. After two treatments of that, Ronnie said they had a difficult decision to make.

“We’d been fighting this nearly a year, and after the first couple radiation treatments, we met with the doctors to look at the progress, and there was none,” Ronnie said. “And they told us that something needed to happen quickly because the tumor was growing, and once it got to the optic nerve, that would be a direct route to the brain.

“And once it got to the brain, we’d be dealing with a different animal.”

There was one procedure the doctors suggested. Since the cancer was limited to inside the eye, they recommended moving the eye.

“It was either our son lose an eye or get brain cancer probably very quickly, so we told them to take the eye out,” Ronnie said.

The surgery was successful. Once the eye was removed, it took all of the cancer with it, and Jacob has had a normal childhood since then.

“He’s 11 now and has never known having two eyes because he was so young when it was taken,” Ronnie said. “He’s healthy, plays sports, hunts and can be a pain like any other 11-year-old boy.

“And we’re grateful because it could’ve gone a lot differently.”

Jacob qualified to have a wish granted by Make A Wish of the Mid-South. And when a representative came to interview him, he had two things he wanted to do that he had to choose between – a trip to Disney World or a trip to watch WWE Wrestlemania.

“He and his sister watched Mickey Mouse Playhouse all the time, and the Disney World trip was a way to make more memories, so we were glad he chose Disney,” Ronnie said.

The family took Jacob to a Jackson Generals baseball game to surprise him. He threw out the first pitch and then a number of people came out to the field to be there when Jacob was given the news.

“He threw a strike, and I think he was more thrilled with that than he was about Disney,” Ronnie said. “And I think it took him a few minutes to figure out that we were actually going to Mickey’s house.”

Ronnie said that moment when Jacob found out and the experience itself at Disney World was a great one that he’ll never forget.

“I don’t know if there’s been a better experience I’ve had as a father other than they day we were told he was cancer free,” Ronnie said.

Because Make A Wish was so good to them, the Barker family wanted to do something for Make A Wish.

They started the Jacob Barber Music Festival in 2015 and raised about $5,000 that went to St. Jude.

“After that first year, my wife and I talked, and we felt St. Jude gets billons of dollars in donations every year, so maybe we could help Make a Wish with the festival,” Ronnie said. “So ever since 2016, the money raised from the festival goes to Make A Wish Mid-South.”

In all, the festival has raised about $45,000 in its eight years (they didn’t get to have the festival in 2020 because of COVID-19).

The Barkers have it set up so that the money they raise will go toward granting wishes in rural West Tennessee.

“We’ve been able to be a part of wish grants in Dyersburg and Huntingdon and other towns,” Ronnie said. “We’ve even been able to time it to where a wish gets granted at the festival itself.

“And that’s good because that means people who’ve donated to it can see that money in action right in front of them, and that’s been a special part about this.”

The festival returns this weekend to its usual spot, The AMP (91 New Market Street) in Downtown Jackson.

It starts on Friday, Oct. 6, at 5 p.m., and on Saturday at 3 p.m. More than 20 local musicians will perform live while other activities are going on including vendors with concessions, live auction, cornhole tournament and other activities for children. The concert is free, but they pass a guitar around to put donations in.

“Any donation helps and is appreciated,” Ronnie said. “If we pass that guitar around and a bunch of people put $1 each in there, then that’s a few hundred dollars for Make A Wish that they didn’t have before.

“If they wad the dollar bills up and fill the guitar, that’s probably a few thousand.”

Makayla Collins, Daniel McClain, Herz, Typsy Gypsy, Better Half, Kelso Mojo, The Hunt Pearson Band, Will Burton, The Hutcheson Brothers, Brandon Lee, Southbound, Steven Stewart, Lower Middle Class, Emily Grace McGill, Paula Bridges and The Bandstand Review and 1977 are all a part of the lineup.

“This is always a great event to be a part of, and we feel it’s going to a great cause,” Ronnie Barker said. “We’d love to see everyone come out.”

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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