ALBANY — While it might be argued that there’s no such thing as a “typical” 16-year-old anymore, in the past, “typical” persons in that age group spent their summers either relaxing, partying, earning some spending money or building their college resumes.
And if there are still 16-year-olds who qualify as typical, Yash Jani is definitely not among them.
While many of his peers are indeed engaged in the aforementioned activities and other pursuits, Jani is working with local hospital officials to create a foundation that will provide literature and education designed to help young children cope with the loss of a parent to cancer.
“You see it so many times: The parent in a young family goes through the horrors of dealing with cancer, and no one really takes the time to think about young children in the family and what’s happening with them,” Jani, whose father, Chirag Jani, is a renowned oncologist, said after returning from a recent trip to the nation’s capital as part of the Washington Workshop Foundation. “First of all, even if they’re too young to know what’s going on, they understand that something is happening.
“And, in the worst cases, the question becomes ‘What happens to the children if they lose a parent?’ I am putting together proposals and looking into grant possibilities to see if I can create a foundation that addresses these issues.”
Jani had meetings set up at the end of the week to continue discussions with Mandy Tedder, who is the major gifts officer for the Phoebe (Putney Health System) Foundation.
“Yash has already come up with a proposal to address issues like bereavement and needed education for children whose parents may even be in hospice care,” Tedder said Friday. “I am meeting with him later to talk about fundraising possibilities, to talk through ways he can meet his goal. He’s said he has a goal of raising $10,000 for this cause, but after listening to him, I believe he’ll do even more.”
Tedder said she’s amazed at the younger Jani’s maturity.
“It’s amazing how polished he is; you definitely don’t get the impression you’re talking to a 16-year-old when you talk with him,” she said. “The other thing that strikes me is how motivated he is. He genuinely is interested in giving back to his community and in building a culture of philanthropy. It’s great to see a young person that dedicated.”
Yash has done volunteer work with hospice, and he’s hung around with his dad at the Phoebe Cancer Center often enough to understand all too well the devastation that the disease imposes on a family.
“In our mostly rural area, cancer is spiking,” the rising Deerfield-Windsor School senior said. “There is, I believe, an urgent need. I want to try and make this happen, to take a course of action that will improve the well-being of families — and especially young people under age 15 — who are going through this. By educating them, perhaps we can change the way they look at things and help them prepare for what lies ahead.”
Typical? Not even in this young man’s extensive vocabulary.