HOPE Week: Mother’s major helper
The concluding event of the Yankees’ HOPE Week 2014 (Helping Others Persevere and Excel) Friday brought pitchers CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Dellin Betances and Jose Ramirez; infielders Mark Teixeira, Kelly Johnson, Brendan Ryan and Yangervis Solarte and catcher Brian McCann to St. Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, N.J., for a surprise lunch for Quai Jefferson, and his mother, Vaida.
The group was joined by notable St. Joseph alumni John Flaherty, the former Yankees catcher and current YES Network broadcaster, and NFL players Jason McCourty of the Tennessee Titans and Devin McCourty of the New England Patriots, who are twin brothers. Select members of the St. Joseph Regional faculty who have had a profound influence on Quai’s life also attended. Later in the evening, Quai and Vaida and their family and friends were guests of the Yankees for their game against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium.
Now a freshman at the University of Delaware, Quai Jefferson was only six years old when his mother, Vaida, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 11 years ago. By the time he was 10, Quai was running the household, cooking and doing laundry. Nurses taught him to check Vaida’s blood pressure and inject her twice a day with Copaxone, a drug which eases the effects of MS.
Now 18, Quai (pronounced Kway) graduated from St. Joseph Regional where he was on the honor roll and a two-sport varsity athlete in football and basketball. At Delaware, Quai will play football and major in business administration with an emphasis in accounting or marketing.
“He has taken on a parent’s responsibility,” Regina Kay, a family friend, said of Quai. “It’s like a role reversal. He’s doing everything his mother would do for him, and he doesn’t give it a second thought. It’s their normal.“
Prior to her diagnosis, Vaida was a design assistant for Jones New York who spent her free time doting on her son and exposing him to a variety of activities, including art classes, piano lessons and tap dancing. Unfortunately, her declining health forced things to change. When most kids would hang out with friends after school, Quai went home to care for his mother, never complaining or shrinking from the responsibility. Over the years since Vaida was first diagnosed, friends and relatives have come and gone but Quai has been steadfast in his devotion.
“She’s truly my heart, my rock and my stone,” Quai said. “She’s all I have.”
He and his mother have a mantra they repeat to each other in tough times — “Adapt and overcome.”