Quai Jefferson Selected as Final Hope Week Honoree
When looking back on the amazing stories and gestures that come together during HOPE week, its not really fair to compare each one. But what is fair to say, is that the story of Quai and Vaida Jefferson may be one of the most inspiring stories you will ever hear.
When Quai Jefferson was just 6 years old, his mother was diagnosed was Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that affects the central nervous system. This is devastating news for any family, but is especially tough when it affects a single mother and her young son. For Quai, his mother was everything to him.
“Growing up, my mother played every role. She was my brother, sister, father, she was everything to me. She created that relationship with me [when I was] real young because she knew it was just me and her at the time. Because of that she wanted to make sure I knew I could tell her anything and she would always be there for me and I would always be there for her. So, I’m her ‘little baby’ or now ‘big baby.’ She always took care of me and I just said, it’s time for me to take care of her. Because as you get older the roles are reversed and everything switches. For me the circumstance happened a little bit earlier, and I’m ok with that.”
The roles certainly switched much earlier for Quai than either he or his mother could have ever anticipated. By 10 years old, Quai was taking care of his mother full time. He was already doing all of the cooking, cleaning, and other normal chores that every household has to deal with in order to function. But he also had to learn how to look after his mother and provide her with the specific care needed as someone affected by MS.
Of course, becoming a full time caretaker by age 10 was a heavy burden. It would be no surprise for someone in Quai’s position to feel sorry for himself. But instead of falling behind and allowing his extra responsibilities to become an excuse, Quai always made sure to handle his own responsibilities, leaving enough time to take care of his mother as well.
“Balancing everything, I made sure I got a lot of my schoolwork done in school so I didn’t really have to deal with that when I got home and I could have some free time. With love anything is possible, so I kind of just did what I had to do and didn’t ask why or question it, because I knew it was for a reason.”
In fact, the “why me” attitude was never even a consideration.
“It never came into my mind because God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers. So right then and there I knew something was coming and I never questioned why, I didn’t ask about it, I just kind of did what I had to do to take care of my mother, and I never really expected any of this.”
What Quai wasn’t expecting… was a visit from Hope Week from the New York Yankees. The Yankees heard about Quai’s inspiring story, and decided that he was deserving of being the final honoree of Hope Week 2014, throwing him a barbecue for his family, friends, and favorite teachers.
Quai had been down at the University of Delaware this summer, where he will be a freshman on the football team this fall. He was returning to his high school, St. Joseph’s in Montvale New Jersey, for…well…he didn’t exactly know he was doing there that day.
“First I heard I had to read a speech then I heard it was an award then I heard it was a graduation party. Nobody really wanted to tell me what was going on. So I was kind of anxious and I was anticipating finding out what was going on but I wasn’t too sure.”
And then the Yankees arrived. Mark Teixeira, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Brendan Ryan, Brian McCann, Dellin Betances, Yangervis Solarte, Kelly Johnson, and Jose Ramirez all showed up to surprise Quai. Once they heard about Quai and Vaida’s stories, they knew how special they were and were deserving of being a part of this year’s hope week.
Teixeira was extremely impressed with the dedication Quai has shown to taking care of his mother.
“It’s unbelievable. I don’t think there are many kids [who are full caretakers] at 18. And from what I hear he started as a freshman or sophomore taking care of his mom full time. At 14, 15 years old there are not many people that can do that. It just shows the personality that Quai has and the dedication he has to his mom. There’s no surprise that he’s a successful young man.”
And Quai is certainly on his way to becoming a successful young man. Quai graduated from St. Joseph’s on the honor roll as a standout football star, and earned a scholarship to play football at the University of Delaware. And while he still holds onto football as part of his dreams, he wants to be involved with as much as he can.
“I want to continue my dream and keep playing and finally make it one day to the league and one day play in the NFL, but aside from that…I wanted to be in everything. Growing up I was an actor, I was a model, right now I have a clothing line with my friend Ra-oof Clark and its called Spread and we’re kind of pushing that right now."
Quai is also excited to use his time at Delaware to further his education.
“I’m going to school for business, I’m going to get my business degree in business administration with marketing or accounting because I like to deal with money and numbers.”
In classic Hope Week fashion, the work ethic Quai has shown gives Teixeira a lesson and an example he can bring with him to help others.
“When I go to East Harlem and talk to kids about the situation they may be in, and you can relate to the hard work and obstacles and things that maybe some kids take for granted, that it’s easy for. Well for Quai it definitely wasn’t easy getting to where he is today and it’s definitely a special story.”
As part of the special day, Quai got to visit Yankee Stadium and throw out the first pitch at that night’s game. Fitting with the attitude of one of the most inspirational people you’ll ever meet, he said he’d have to practice beforehand. The result? A perfect strike.