Breast cancer has been a part of Jessica Brand’s life since before she was born.
For 12 years, her Aunt Rose battled the disease and ultimately lost when Jessica was 8. But her outlook on life and lessons of positive thinking and helping others lingers for Jessica.
At 12, as she prepared for her bat mitzvah, Jessica wrote and produced a CD, "From All of Us to All of You," to honor her aunt and raise $10,000 for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure global breast cancer movement.
"We’re helping, which is a great feeling to think that maybe in the long run no one will have to go through what my grandma (who is a breast cancer survivor) went through and what my aunt went through," says Jessica, the daughter of Warren and Michelle Brand of Skokie.
The 13-year-old is $3,000 away from her goal.
Jessica, who has been playing the piano since age 6, wrote all of the 12 songs on the CD except the one Billy Joel allowed her to use, "Lullabye." She says one of her favorite tracks is titled "Rain."
"I almost named it after my aunt, because it’s really soft and really pretty and calm, but it has its moments where it’s louder and more abrupt, more emotional, which is kind of what her life was like. She was really calm and really just a beautiful person but there were definitely moments in her life when everything wasn’t as smooth."
When the seventh-grader is not playing the piano, she says she loves basketball, hanging out with family and friends, camping, hiking and biking.
She says she’s serious "only when I need to be because life is so much fun, you don’t want to waste it being serious all the time, especially when you can be doing something fun and uplifting."
That she got from Aunt Rose, too.
And she says she definitely doesn’t focus on the "what ifs" of breast cancer hitting her mom or other members of her family. "I don’t like to preoccupy myself with worry."
Jessica says she believes everybody can make a difference.
"Everybody has something they are good at. ... I think that if everyone could use the talent that they have to do things like I’m doing, then the world could be a great place."
Tamara L. O’Shaughnessy
Hear a track
To hear a track of the CD, go to www.jessicas project.com. Order the CD by sending a check for $16 to Jessica’s Project, P.O. Box 112, Skokie, IL 60076.
What do you want to be when you grow up? I’m not quite sure what I want to be. I’d just like to keep my options open and I’m just kind of taking my life one day at a time.
What’s your favorite food? Chinese food
What’s your weird talent? I can touch my tongue to my nose. I could never do it, but I worked really hard on it.
Who inspires you and why? Martin Luther King Jr. "He has always been an inspiration to me because he was really brave and he wasn’t afraid to fight for what he knew was right and I always admire that in people."
Do you know a great kid age 14 and under who’s done something amazing? E-mail names and information to email@example.com.