LEOMINSTER – At the young age of 12, Jack Spencer LaRoche, a sixth-grader at Samoset Middle School, has already begun to make a difference in the world.
Jack’s father, Chris Spencer, died unexpectedly in January 2020, a difficult fact in his life back then and still today.
“After his father’s service, I asked Jack if he wanted to think about doing something to honor his father in an effort to get him out of a complex situation,” said Becky LaRoche, Jack’s mother. “
“Jack’s father was quite an athlete, he even ran 5 miles when Jack was just a baby,” he added.
With Jack inheriting his father’s athletics and becoming a good runner, he decided he wanted to create a walking event to run in honor of his father and return to an organization that benefited his father, Eliot Community Human Services of Lexington.
“Jack enjoys running fast and participated in Mile Madness for several years in a row at Fallbrook Elementary School under the direction of Mrs. Moody, his gym teacher,” LaRoche said. “Jack decided he wanted to do something similar, but he didn’t want it to be a competitive race. I just wanted people to go out, move and have fun. ”
Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, Jack and his mother thought it would be good to pair fundraising with mental health awareness.
“Jack understands the importance of taking care of your mental health while doing your physical health,” LaRoche added.
That’s when the inaugural annual Spencer Sprint was set last May, with the second annual Spencer Sprint held this past Sunday.
Last year, Jack set out to raise $ 500 and in a few weeks raised a little over $ 4,000.
“Immediately, the donations started spilling out – it was very remarkable,” LaRoche said. “He was completely shocked and warmed by the outpouring of support from family and friends.”
Due to the pandemic, the event was held virtually; however, the LaRoche family was thrilled to see photos of family and friends walking / walking their “mile” via Facebook posts.
“I wanted Jack to be the leader of this event, so I would make some suggestions on what to tell people, how to advertise, and what to do with the funds, but all the final decisions were made by him,” LaRoche said.
Throughout the month of May, Jack and his family are looking for quotes and pictures to post on Facebook about mental health awareness.
Like most families, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult time for them.
“The kids missed their friends, their sports, their normal activities, and the end-of-year school events,” LaRoche said. “Having the Spencer Sprint to focus on has caused some excitement in our home, as we had daily updates on who was giving and reading the positive messages people would post for Jack.”
LaRoche said last year the whole family ran a mile down the street with their dog and new puppy.
“It was a positive experience for all of us and it definitely helped bring smiles home during a very difficult time,” he added. “I think we all understood the importance of being aware of mental health when we were faced with a pandemic and we had to adjust our lives accordingly and feel the loss of many things we took for granted in our daily lives.” .
LaRoche stressed the importance of finding a way to ask for help when needed.
“It’s always okay to ask for help,” he said. “It’s also important to find a way to work on the little things every day to help you with mental health, whether it’s a phone call with a friend, 10 minutes without screens, or a walk around the block.”
At this year’s Spencer Sprint, a small crowd was able to join Jack and his family at Samoset Middle School, and Jack was more than grateful for all the donations.
In the last month, Jack has raised more than $ 3,295 thanks to donations from family and friends. All money raised will be donated to The Eliot Community Human Services in Lexington, a local agency that supports mental health, providing community-based services to more than 50,000 people and families across Massachusetts each year.
“I would like to thank everyone for participating in the Second Annual Spencer Sprint,” he said. “It makes me feel great because I’ve seen first hand how difficult it can be for someone to have mental illness and how it can affect their family and friends. I hope to be able to help change the lives of many people through Spencer Sprint.”
If you’re interested in donating, it’s not too late, visit https://paypal.me/pools/c/8z7kPtlvwa