A Young Boy's Legacy of Smiles for Sick Children

Matthew Jacko was a remarkable little boy.

Diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in 2012, the 7-year-old responded by starting a fundraiser to provide stuffed animals to other sick children at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Now, six months after his death, his family is carrying on his legacy.

During his illness, Matthew received a plush monkey. He decided that he wanted to raise money to provide stuffed monkeys to 500 other children receiving care at Children's Hospital. The community response was generous. Matthew raised enough money to purchase more than 1,000 toys, which were distributed to kids at multiple hospitals.

But at Children's, Matthew delivered many of the monkeys in person, telling the boys and girls, "I hope this makes you smile."

Matthew died in June 2014 at age 9. In his Guest Book, an acquaintance remembers that she "fell in love with this sweet boy when he was raising money to give a stuffed monkey to the other kids in the hospital. I prayed for him every single day." Another remembers that she "was only in Matthew's presence a few times and was deeply impressed with his ability to communicate happy memories, his ready smile and his heart of compassion."

Now, during the season of giving, his family and the community are coming together to continue his legacy. Assisted by the Central Catholic High School football team, the family is raising money to provide stuffed penguins to for each child hospitalized in their area. Additional money raised will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"He would love it," his mother, Carey Mynahan-Jacko, told Trib Live. "If he were here, he would want to do it again for sure."