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Jack R.

Don't give up. Don't ever give up.

In 1993, legendary basketball coach and sports commentator Jimmy Valvano, also known as “Jimmy V,” delivered a powerful and emotional message at the ESPY Awards.

The year before, Valvano was diagnosed with terminal cancer, but despite his illness, he continued to inspire others with his positive attitude and determination. 

His speech that night became one of the most memorable moments in sports history, showcasing his resilience and unwavering spirit and encouraging others to approach life with that same courageous attitude.

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up,” he said. 

More than thirty years later, a five-year-old boy from Ridgeland, Mississippi, would embody that never-give-up attitude in every aspect of his life.

Jack Richards came into the world fighting at just 25 weeks gestation, just barely past the midway point. His mother, Dianna, had severe preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by high blood pressure. It was so serious that it was safer for her to deliver early - even exceptionally early - than to risk both of their lives by waiting. 

“We never really knew a life without the possibility of challenges,” Dianna explained. “After Jack was born, he stayed in the NICU for 144 days, and we almost lost him a few times. At one point, he contracted MRSA in his elbow that spread to his lungs, but somehow, he pulled through.”

Miraculously, he defied all odds, but doctors warned his parents that he would face significant challenges and would likely be developmentally delayed for the foreseeable future.

Jack went home in September of that year, nearly five months after his birth. Almost immediately, Dianna noticed he was having absence seizures. They were referred to a neurologist and then a geneticist before finally getting a diagnosis nearly three months later.

Jack was diagnosed with GRIN2B, an ultra-rare neurodevelopmental disorder. At the time, he was the only child in the state of Mississippi to be diagnosed and one of just a couple hundred in the United States. 

Doctors also confirmed that Jack has cerebral palsy, microcephaly (smaller than average head size), and polymicrogyria, a condition where there’s less white matter and more brain folds.

“The average parent won’t know what we’re going through, but if we can find other families who can empathize, that’s helpful,” Dianna told us. “After we got through the initial shock of it – and it is hard to do that – we got to the point where we could reach out and find our place. It’s so important to find these little connections everywhere.”

Those connections took Dianna down a social media rabbit hole in 2022 and led her straight to a therapy option for Jack. She did a deep dive and saw a child that reminded her of Jack, so she took a closer look at the therapy he was trying. It’s called Dynamic Movement Intervention (DMI), and it’s a technique used to treat children with motor delay.

“It looks strange when you first see it,” Dianna explained. “But these kids with genetic disorders or intellectual disabilities, they have to learn a different way. This therapy is so honed in on that; it’s amazing what it can do.”

She reached out to the closest place that offered DMI, which was Nashville, TN. (Unfortunately, there were no resources available in their home state of Mississippi.)

The first time Jack went, he was sitting up by himself, but not well or consistently. After three weeks of DMI, he could sit independently for 30 minutes. 

“It helped focus his core strength and gross motor skills so much more than traditional occupational or physical therapy classes, which he also takes,” said Dianna. “It’s just so much more specialized and a little unorthodox because they start with standing and then work their way down to crawling. It’s really helped Jack rethink how to stand and move.”

While Jack is nonverbal, he can make noises and find ways to communicate. And though he’s also non-ambulatory, he can scoot around the ground and is working on building his strength.

“Jack has a smile that will take you from the worst place emotionally, and then he smiles, turning your whole day around. He’s so stinking cute, it’s ridiculous.”

Even though there isn't a lot Jack can do physically, he is the happiest little five-year-old ever. When he’s not kicking butt in therapy, he enjoys patting things and rocking his body back and forth, and loves weird noises and when the dog licks his face.

While DMI therapy has been a game changer for Jack, it’s not covered by insurance, and the sessions can be very expensive.

“There’s a lot that’s not covered that’s so critical for our kids,” Dianna shared. “If the insurance companies would just sit down and look and listen…it could be so different.”

Until that day, they remain grateful for organizations like Chive Charities. 

One morning, Dianna was researching grants that might allow Jack to do more DMI sessions without breaking the bank. She found someone on Instagram who posted about getting support from Chive Charities and then reached out to us directly.

After we reviewed their application and saw the impact additional therapy could have on Jack’s quality of life, we were thrilled to approve them. 

With the help of our donors, we funded three weeks of intensive therapy for Jack at NAPA Center Austin, plus travel accommodations throughout their stay, for a total impact of $11,618.

“There aren’t enough thank yous in the world to say how grateful we are for you guys,” said Dianna. “It’s amazing how far Jack has come, and we know this will continue to support him.

“Because he’s developmentally delayed, the fact that he doesn’t give up is even more moving. We push him, push him, push him, and he won’t give up. As his parents, we have more bad days than he does. We’d quit before he would. 

“But as his parents, we’ll do whatever we have to do to make sure he’s taken care of and happy.”

We’re not Jack’s parents, but we know this community would do whatever it takes to ensure he’s taken care of and happy, too. Don’t give up, Jack. Don’t ever give up. 

If you’re an individual or family waiting for support of your own, we hope you’ll apply and share your story with us. And if you’re one of those amazing heroes who would do whatever you could to help, we hope you’ll join our donor family and change more lives for the better. For as long as they need us, we’ll be there. We’ll never quit. DONATE HERE.

Jack R.'s Updates

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