About 30,000 children in U.S. hospitals will receive gowns featuring a design by a 6-year-old Crystal Lake boy inspired by his sister.
Jack Backe designed a gown with four hearts for his sister because her “heart is broken.” His sister, 8-month-old Everly, was born with a congenital heart defect, which affects 1 in 100,000 babies.
The family learned that Jack won the Starlight Children’s Foundation’s national competition Wednesday as they were standing outside of Wrigley Field. About 65 of their closest family, friends, teachers, nurses and classmates joined them at the Cubs game, where the Backes were honored by the team.
“His face was priceless, and his jaw just dropped to the ground,” said Jack’s mother, Lauren Backe. “He doesn’t realize how many people 30,000 is, so he doesn’t know how big of a deal this is, but he felt so special.”
Jack spent the day doing what most Cubs fans would dream of – attending batting practice, delivering the starting lineup to the umpire and touring Wrigley Field.
He began designing a hospital gown when he saw that most of them were too big to fit Everly.
Starlight will distribute 30,000 gowns, and the two other finalists received funding to make 20,000 gowns.
“I hope when kids get Jack’s gown they just light up and it makes them feel better,” Backe said. “They are super soft, and I put Everly in it this morning, so Jack could see her in it, and I couldn’t take it off.”
Backe said the day was a nice change of routine for the family, who is not able to get out much because Everly is prone to viruses.
“Most of our life revolves around having vitals checked and medications,” Backe said. “Our life is very routine and very calculated until something goes wrong, so this was just a change of pace. It was a nice novelty to do something fun to help other people.”
Since Everly was born, a lot of focus has been on her, Backe said, but before that, it was just Jack.
“It was nice for him to get some attention and recognition after this time,” Backe said. “I never leave Everly, except for maybe an hour or so, and yesterday he had both of his parents’ undivided attention all day long, so it was great.”
The Backe family is preparing for Everly’s third open-heart surgery, which is scheduled for the summer. Gowns will be delivered to Advocate Children’s Hospital – Oak Lawn, where Everly receives treatment.