Iliana N. Corfias / Lantern photographer
Jack Hanna’s TV show “Into the Wild” was 7-year-old Jake Berner’s favorite show to watch in the mornings while receiving radiation treatments for brain cancer.
The day of his final treatment, he met Hanna one-on-one.
In celebration of his final treatment, his parents Lynee and John Berner, a 1991 OSU alumnus, of Delaware, Ohio, brought Jake Berner and his siblings Nick Berner, 3, and Chloe Berner, 2, to the Ohio Union Activities Board-sponsored event “Into the Wild with Jack Hanna” Thursday.
The family discovered Jake Berner’s brain cancer, more formally called ependymoma, June 27. He underwent a 13 1/2-hour procedure at Nationwide Children’s Hospital July 6 to have a tumor removed and spent eight days in the hospital after the surgery, then soon after began 30 radiation treatments at Ohio State’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Reseach Institute, where he started watching “Into the Wild.”
To go from sitting in a hospital bed watching Hanna on TV, to watching him live from the front row of the Ohio Union’s Archie M. Griffin Grand Ballroom took some help from family friends.
Kaitie Peterson, a third-year in animal sciences, picked up tickets for her and her mother, Heidi Peterson, to see Hanna live. Heidi Peterson, who is Lynee Berner’s boss, had the idea to bring Jake Berner and his family to the event as a surprise and celebration of his last radiation treatment.
“We thought it would be a great surprise for Jake, and we were pretty lucky to have a chance to meet (Hanna) before the show,” Lynee Berner said. “He would watch the show every morning before his radiation treatment and we’ve been to the zoo countless times.”
Kaitie Peterson asked a few friends to give their student tickets to the Berner family so everyone could see the show.
“My mom called me up and asked if there was any way to get extra tickets. So I went to a couple of buddies and asked them for theirs,” Kaitie Peterson said. “I knew they weren’t going and they were happy to help out.”
Kaitie and her friends gathered up enough tickets, but the family did not actually need them, as they ended up getting reserved seats in the front row, which included a one-on-one session with Hanna.
Heidi Peterson sent emails to OUAB explaining Jake’s situation. OUAB representatives contacted the Petersons and Berners and set up a meet-and-greet, where the families got to take pictures and pet a penguin before the show.
“I got to pet a penguin. It was really cool. I got my picture taken, too,” Jake Berner said.
His parents said he was a little shy and too distracted by the excitement of the evening to really focus on talking, but the families made it clear how meaningful the night was to everyone.
“We had no idea this would happen. My mom and Lynee were so excited about the meet-and-greet and what this would mean to Jake that they both started to cry,” Kaitie Peterson said.
“It’s amazing to think that such a big university could take a big event like this and do something so personal for one kid.”
Jake Berner is in remission. Sunday, Lynee Berner said, she planned to hold a party to celebrate the end of her son’s treatments.