If you ask someone from Hope to describe their community, 99.99999 percent of the time, a common answer you get is, “close-knit” and “family.”

For the Mayer family, the sentiment is felt, but there are no words to express it when the sense of overwhelm is so strong.

The Mayer family’s journey began back in October.

Following the last few games of the football season, a then 14-year-old Jackson would become winded, his father J.P. Mayer recalls. Thinking their son was suffering from seasonal allergies or as a consequence of local farmers working the fields, the Mayers took their son to the doctor.

When an inhaler didn’t work to alleviate his symptoms the doctor called for tests.

“The doctor called us all in and sat us down and said, ‘I’m pretty sure your son has leukemia.’”

And, just like that, time stopped.

Mayer’s wife, Tessa, had already been fighting her own battle against Stage 4 Breast Cancer, which has spread to her bones. Now, to hear their son is also ill was too much for any parent to hear, let alone come to grips with. But in true Mayer fashion, the family rallied and got a game plan.

The next day, Jackson’s doctor secured an appointment for him at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent. in Indianapolis. He was admitted the last week of October and spent the next two weeks in the hospital.

“They released him home, but he is getting chemotherapy and taking high doses of prednisone and other treatments,” Mayer says. “It has been an ordeal.”

Shortly after his son’s diagnosis, Mayer says he informed Hauser’s administrators and the substitute teacher coordinator that he would have to take several days off and would have to do so on a regular basis for the foreseeable future.

Everyone was very supportive, Mayer says.

However, the timing also made it so that Mayer would not be able to attend the Annual Black and White Alumni basketball game at Hauser – which is not only a major fundraiser for Hauser’s athletic department, but also a chance for former and current Jets to gather for some hoops, conversation and camaraderie.

Hauser Principal Kris Fortune says when Mayer talked with him about what was going on Fortune sent out an email to Hauser staff regarding the news and how they could go about donating gift cards or monetary donations to help the Mayer family cover expenses for food and travel during Jackson’s treatments.

“We ended up collecting some money and Mr. Phillips, our athletic director, wanted to match that and so we did that,” Fortune says. “And then, our alumni basketball night, which is kind of a showcase for our basketball teams and alumni before the season, Mr. Phillips decided any proceeds from concessions or free-will donations – all from that night went to the Mayer family.”

Phillips says the decision to donate all proceeds to the family was simply a “no-brainer.”

“It is one of those things where we were going to use the Black and White night as a fundraiser and what J.P. is going through is bigger than any athletic need we would ever have,” Phillips says.

However, Phillips admits he did his best to keep the news of what he was planning secret from Mayer.

“Everyone was onboard,” Phillips says. “We tried our best to keep it from J.P. because he is such a salt-of-the-earth man and I didn’t want any pushback from him.”

The Tuesday after the alumni game, Phillips and Fortune made an unannounced visit to Mayer’s classroom.

Recalling that day, Mayer, who teaches German and speech at Hauser, says he was in his classroom on break when they walked in and asked, “Can we talk to you?”

Unsure what was going on Mayer says his first thought went to his students. He says he was certain he hadn’t done anything to warrant an unannounced visit, so his next thought went to his students as he was hoping one of them wasn’t in trouble or anything.

“My mind was reeling,” Mayer says.

The pair told Mayer what Phillips had done at the alumni game and how the Hauser family had rallied together to offer help and support.

And then they handed him an envelope. Inside was a check for several thousand dollars.

“I was just blown away,” Mayer says. “I didn’t know what to say. Even now, I get choked up. It was a real happy thing. I was just floored. We always talk about the word family here at Hauser and that just demonstrated that Hauser and Hope is a good place to be. It isn’t just a place to work, it is a place where we are all family.”

Later that evening when Mayer recounted the day’s events to his wife and son they were just as touched as J.P., he says.

Moving forward, it isn’t going to be an easy road for the Mayer family.

The entire treatment regimen for Jackson’s cancer will take three years and four months. He has completed the first round of induction chemotherapy, which doctors say has technically put him in remission. However, for his type of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, the treatment will continue.

“Now we move onto the next phase, which is consolidation,” Mayer explains. “It is more intensive than the induction was. Poor Jackson has a tough road in front of him.”

Jackson, who attends Columbus North High School, will remain home from school at last through May, depending on how treatment goes, Mayer says.

“He has a homebound teacher who comes and visits him three times each week,” Mayer says. “He keeps up with assignments online and with that teacher.”

As the Mayer family heads into the New Year they know they have the support of not only their Hauser family, but the Hope family.

“It is just truly a heartbreaking story,” Fortune says. “I wish we could do more, but I hope that what we have been able to do has helped with some of the burdens the family may have.”

From his heart, Mayer says he and his family are grateful beyond words for the kindness and generosity shown to them during this time. There aren’t enough words or large enough letters to highlight the Thank You the family feels, he says.

And, if there is one thing the Mayer family should know it is that the Hope community has and will continue to have their back during this difficult time.

Phillips asks everyone to keep the Mayer family in their thoughts and prayers. And just because the alumni game is done, that doesn’t mean the donations have to stop, he adds.

Anyone in the Hope community or surrounding area who would like to donate may do so at Hauser’s front office, Phillips says.

“This community is special,” Phillips says. “I’ve never seen one rally like this and it doesn’t have to stop with alumni night. It can continue until we get J.P. and his family through this.”

** Phillips invites those with questions to contact him directly at 812-546-4421 extension 4013.