The 28th annual Cleveland Clinic Children’s Gala – presented by the Cleveland Cavaliers – will honor two inspiring young patients who demonstrate incredible resilience while facing medical adversity. This year’s honorees, Tye’rell Simpson, 6, of Cleveland, and Jack Sparent, 14, of Concord Township, will both receive the esteemed Courage Award on the evening of May 12 at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown.
Cleveland Clinic Children’s annual gala is focused on honoring brave children facing medical obstacles and the dedicated caregivers who work tirelessly to provide comfort and healing. Funds raised at the event will help advance pediatric research, which is critical to transforming pediatric patient care for the future. In 2017, gala supporters helped raise more than $1 million.
The event, hosted by Fox 8 anchor Stefani Schaefer and co-chaired by Lorraine Dodero and Umberto Fedeli, will feature a variety of special guests, including musical group The Modern Gentlemen, the Cleveland-based Contemporary Youth Orchestra and vocalist Eva Janigian, 15, a former Cleveland Clinic Children’s patient.
More about this year’s Courage Award honorees:
Tye’rell Simpson, 6, of Cleveland, Ohio
Tye’rell is a bubbly and spirited little boy who has endured a lot in his first six years of life. Born with a heart defect called aortic atresia, Tye’rell has faced multiple open heart surgeries, as well as a stroke. In 2014, he then received a devastating and rare cancer diagnosis of atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (ATRT) – which required more surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and three stem cell transplants back-to-back.
Despite enduring frequent tests and scans, missing out on school and activities, and facing a number of life-threatening situations, Tye’rell never lets his medical challenges dull his zest for life. He is continuously smiling, singing and dancing – and he’s known for keeping his care team, and his parents, on their toes. Today, Tye’rell is attending school, and he’s able to run around and play with his fellow classmates.
“When looking at spunky, active Tye’rell, one would never know that he has weathered one of the most serious forms of congenital heart disease, as well as a rare cancer diagnosis,” said Francine Erenberg, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. “He and his family are a true inspiration.”
Jack Sparent, 14, of Concord Township, Ohio
Jack’s story is one of courage and tenacity. In February 2017, Jack was recovering from what he thought was the flu, but a week later, he woke up and couldn’t move his legs. The paralysis quickly spread, and he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare illness that affects only about 1 in 100,000. The syndrome left Jack’s body with profound weakness – inhibiting nearly all movement from the eyes down, and even limiting his ability to breathe and swallow on his own.
Jack spent a number of weeks in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on a ventilator, and then endured speech, physical, recreational and occupational therapy at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation, where he fought to get back on his feet. Throughout his journey, Jack remained brave, positive and focused on regaining his strength – despite the many unknowns that came with his diagnosis.
“You just have to look on the bright side of everything,” Jack said. “Don’t ever think you are going to be defeated.”
Although Jack has made a remarkable recovery thus far, his fight is not over – but the young athlete vows to play baseball again someday soon.