TOP STORIES OF 2017: No. 3 -- Bloomfield teen makes her mark

Monday, January 1, 2018

The story of a Bloomfield teenager who continued to give to others despite her own health concerns was voted the number 3 story for 2017.

Born Jan. 13, 2003, with a condition known as hypoplastic left heart, Jaden Lauderdale had her first open heart surgery at one week old, a second at nine months old and another just after her second birthday. The Bloomfield girl spent her life in and out of Riley, and never complained about her fate.

Jan. 18, Lauderdale suffered a setback, and on Jan. 30 the decision was made to have Lauderdale placed on the list to receive a donor heart when one became available.

Riley Hospital became her full-time home, and she did not spend her time there idly.

It was during one extended visit to Riley that Lauderdale noticed the lack of outdoor play facilities for the children under Riley’s care. Indoors, patients had the Child Life Zone, an area full of fun and activity, but those wishing for fresh air and sunshine had to be content with a sidewalk or a patch of grass near the parking lot.

Spurred by her innate talent for, and love of, cooking, Lauderdale started a weekly bake sale to raise the $10,000 she was told she would need to build a new playhouse in a Riley Hospital courtyard. Her bake sale, along with other fundraisers put on by family and friends, raised $5,000 in three weeks time.

In April, the Greene County Daily World held its ‘Bright Futures’ contest, meant to discover and honor Greene County’s shining stars, the youth of Greene County who make a difference in the lives of others.

Lauderdale was nominated for the title by her mom, Jessica, and of the 10 finalists at a banquet held April 20, Lauderdale was named Greene County’s Shining Star.

The plucky teenager and her family continued to raise funds by holding bake sales, mud bog events, “Jaden’s 10 for 10” at BHS and any other way to raise money they could think of, determined to make “Jaden’s Playhouse” a reality.

Jaden Lauderdale waited as long as she could...

On Father’s Day, June 18, 2017, she passed away, surrounded by her loving family at Riley Hospital for Children, but her dream lived on.

In October of 2017, Lauderdale’s dream became reality as her family and friends attended the ceremony to unveil the custom-built ADA-accessible playhouse designed by Lauderdale.

“I was imagining her there in person,” mom Jessica Lauderdale said. “I could see her standing with her IV pole, sparkling sandals and a big smile on her face.”

The family and friends of Lauderdale now work towards another goal of the spunky 14-year-old, a handicapped-accessible playground at Bloomfield schools. Lauderdale’s mom, Jessica, is currently working on a book for her daughter, one that will be part cook-book and part loving tribute to the Greene County girl with the heart of gold.

Working with the Greene County Foundation, the family is in the process of setting up the Jaden Lauderdale Memorial Scholarship as well as ironing out the details of 2018’s “Jaden’s Journey,” planned for June 23 with proceeds going equally to the scholarship and playground funds.

Anyone wishing to donate towards the Bloomfield playground may contact the Bloomfield PTO at Bloomfield School, attention Janice Barker 500 West South Street Bloomfield.

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