Award-winning artist, Special Olympian, and cancer survivor, Jacob Simons, never lets his disability hold him back

Jessica and Jacob

Jacob Simons and his mom, Jessica

Jacob Simons, a native of Mobile, is an 18 year old senior at Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega. Five days before he turned two years old, he was diagnosed with cancer. He fought it for a year and lost his right eye, then fought it for another year and lost his left eye, so he was completely blind by the time he was four years old.

“He never complains,” said his mom, Jessica. “He has helped me more than anybody will ever know. It’s been hard for me to let him
do things, but who am I to hold him back? As much as I want him at home, it would be selfish of me to keep him from having an opportunity to better himself. He may be good at something, and how am I going to know unless I let him try? He does the standing long jump, shotput, and softball toss in the Special Olympics. He’s been on the wrestling, soccer, swim, and track teams at school. He rides horses. He ran an entire marathon,” she said. “He was also the only student in the entire school to make straight ‘A’s last year. Jacob loves life. Now he’s trying to convince me to let him drive!”

“I promise I won’t burn too much rubber,” said Jacob, grinning at his mom.

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Jacob at work in the summer job training program at Goodwill Easterseals

Jacob came to Goodwill Easterseals to take part in a six week summer job training program for teens who are blind, deaf, or have visual or hearing impairments after having spent the previous summer working at our Azalea Road Store. Two of our staff in Employment Services, Betsy and Maxine, have had the pleasure of working with Jacob this summer.

Jacob and Employment Services staff

GES Employment Services staff and Jacob in the workshop

“My experience with Jacob has been short, but the self confidence this young man has is amazing,” said Betsy. “He will try anything and he’s very independent. He doesn’t back away from any challenge. He really does bring joy everywhere he goes.”

Jacob will soon be finished with high school and ready to move on to the E. H. Gentry college
program, where they will let him try different trades to see which one fits him best. “Even though he is excited about college, he says he wants to stay here and work with Ms. Betsy forever,” said his mom.

“Ms. Betsy’s my sidekick. I’ve really enjoyed working with her,” said Jacob.

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Jacob’s award winning painting, which now hangs in the Tennessee Valley Art Museum in Tuscumbia County, Alabama

Jacob is not only an exemplary employee and a very determined young man with many talents and skills, he has also been painting for six years.

“He entered one painting in the Helen Keller Art
Show and won. That painting is now hanging in the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art in Tuscumbia County,” said his mom.

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One of the masks Jacob donated to benefit St. Jude’s Mardi Gras fundraiser

Jacob was also a patient of St. Jude’s. “They released him this past June, and he is considered a survivor now,” said Jessica. “One of the benefits for St. Jude’s is a Mardi Gras Ball, and he painted and donated masks for it, which sold for thousands of dollars. He donated the proceeds to help other kids fight like people helped him.”

“We don’t sweat the small stuff,” she said, “because you never know what’s going to happen. I’m proud of him. He does not lay around and feel sorry for himself or let his disability get in his way.”

Look out, world. Jacob is headed your way, and he has some very big plans for his very bright future.