By Tiffany Merlo Phelps
Southern California natives Collin and Kelci Jager felt called to move to Florida in 2018. It was an overwhelming feeling that they cannot explain. They both researched where to live in Florida separately, and they both found Nocatee. Everything seemed to fall into place as they moved into Coastal Oaks in December 2019. Their four surfer sons made a seamless transition.
Then life changed dramatically after one August day in 2020.
That was the day that the Jagers’ two older sons were passengers in a bad golf cart accident, setting off a series of life-changing events that would lead to some incredibly painful times; however, Kelci Jager is quick to point out the undeniable silver linings that developed from that visit to Baptist South’s emergency room — silver linings that would be revealed over time.
Fourteen-year-old Lucah broke his arm in the accident and required multiple surgeries. The oldest son, 16-year-old Ian, suffered head trauma. Ian’s medical exam at Wolfson Children’s Hospital revealed a two-inch brain tumor that required immediate surgery.
While the accident was horrific and traumatic, Kelci Jager saw it as a blessing in disguise because Ian’s brain tumor was found. He had no symptoms, so it would likely not have been found until he was very sick. Ian’s tumor was removed and was benign, and Lucah has healed. Both boys are mostly back to normal, according to their mom.
At the time of the accident, the Jagers found themselves with two children in the hospital and two children at home and no family in town. Covid further complicated matters.
“My world was crashing around me. It was so surreal,” said Kelci Jager, adding that she and her husband could not be at the hospital at the same time because of Covid restrictions.
The couple, both self-employed, soon found another silver lining: what it means to have a community of friends, neighbors and strangers rally behind you.
“They watched our kids, they cleaned our house, did our laundry and brought us dinner for weeks,” said Kelci Jager. “They just carried us. It was incredible, and so nice to see. We would not have had this type of community support in California.”
Just as life began to return to normal for the family, life took another unexpected turn in January 2021 as Collin Jager was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive form of leukemia. He has since undergone intense chemotherapy and is in phase three of a five phase treatment plan (a May bone marrow biopsy came back showing zero cancer cells which Kelci Jager said means that her husband does not need a stem cell transplant).
“Again, my world was shattered. I was devastated and heartbroken. But this community came to my rescue a second time. The amount of love and support we have received from neighbors and Nocatee residents who don’t even know us is mind-blowing,” said Kelci Jager.
In May, Nocatee resident and friend Rosario Arteaga held a “Lace Up for Collin” 5k run, 1k fun walk and a virtual race to raise money for the family. The event enabled a $9,720 check to be cut to the family with 259 people participating. Milestone Authority managed the race.
“The race was amazing, and the turnout was great,” said Arteaga, adding that sponsors were quick to sign up as well.
She was most impressed with the 40 teenagers who enthusiastically arrived for the 8 a.m. event to volunteer their time.
“I never heard even one complaint from this group. This enabled us to keep the costs low, so more money would go to the Jagers,” said Arteaga.
She plans to make this an annual event for the Jagers. If the Jagers no longer need it, then the event will be held to help another Nocatee family.
Neighbor Pam Collins volunteered at the race and also led a YOBE Frozen Yogurt Nocatee fundraising night for the family. This included YOBE, owned by a Nocatee family, matching the amount of money that was raised, so that the Jagers ended up with $600. So many people were willing to help, said Collins.
“The common denominator was Kelci and Collin,” she said. “The boys are wonderful, and they are just a good family.”
A GoFundMe page has been started for Collin and medical updates are listed there as well.
Photo courtesy Kelci Jager
The Jager family