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By Cari Hachmann
Staff Writer 

Fallbrook flower shop owner fashions superhero-inspired capes, bringing cheer to children who have cancer


Last updated 3/11/2019 at 2:53pm

Debi Jacoby started her nonprofit organization "Comfort & Courage" in memory of her nephew, Jonathan Martinez who died in May 2018. Martinez was only 6 years old, but spent 14 months of his life battling brain cancer.

“I make capes for children who are terminal or any child who needs comfort and courage while battling cancer,” Jacoby said.

She is also the new owner of Sheri’s Flowers in Fallbrook, 839 E. Mission Road.

Martinez was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a cancerous tumor that starts in the brain at the base of the skull and tends to spread to other parts of the brain and spinal cord.

“As soon as we found out, we quickly gathered our wagons and circled my sister,” said Jacoby, who lives in Temecula and makes the drive to her Fallbrook flower shop every day.

The young boy battled the cancer through his fifth and sixth birthdays at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County.

“Once he was in the hospital, he rarely came out,” said Jacoby. “It was a constant battle. “Tumors were removed, but then it started spreading. They had to pull out teeth for his chemo treatment. In the end, he went blind. He struggled really, really hard. We watched him go from having headaches to being lethargic most of the time.”

But if there was one thing that kept his spirits up, it was… Batman.

On Martinez’s sixth birthday, Jacoby and her family opened the invitation for people to send cards to the boy at the hospital. He received hundreds, and among the cards, was a box of superhero capes.

“It was the best day he ever had,” Jacoby said. It was also the first time Martinez was allowed to be home with his family. “He was too sick to get off the couch, but still had the biggest smile on his face,” Jacoby said.

With his Batman cape on, she said Martinez felt happy, strong and invincible. His smiles brought a renewed sense of cheer to his family, who shared love and laughter together that day.

That’s when an idea sparked in Jacoby’s mind.

“I started to make capes,” she said, and began handing them out to children who stayed on the same floor as Martinez at the hospital.

“The kids there do this thing that is amazing,” Jacoby said. “They get up and stand in their doorway, and when they see another kid on their way to surgery or chemo, all the kids cheer them on.”

She noticed them cheering on one child who was wearing one of her capes.

Parents and nurses also started noticing the capes and wondered who was making them.

Jacoby said it helped her get through the emotional turmoil of watching Jonathan slowly die of cancer. “I found my way to cope with what was going on by making these,” she said.

Her sister, who raised Martinez along with their mother, also loved the idea.

Jacoby said learns about what each child likes, whether they are a boy or girl, what their favorite color is and if they have a favorite superhero.

“I want to make sure I get something they like,” she said.

She also lines the little capes with felt, so the children can wear them to bed at night.

Jacoby met others who were doing similar uplifting activities, including a neurosurgeon from San Diego, who dressed as Dr. Batman, and a woman dressed as Batgirl, who made regular visits to the children.

After Martinez died May 20, 2018, a few weeks later Jacoby opened her nonprofit organization “Comfort & Courage.”

“It’s a joy knowing he’s left this gift for other kids,” she said.

Jacoby said she’d like to be able to reach more people.

“(The capes) are for whoever needs comfort and care,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll make flower crowns for the girls who are bald, or blankets… just whatever they ask for. What will make them feel comfortable? We already know they’re courageous.”

When Jacoby took over ownership of Sheri’s Flowers in July 2018, she kind of jumped into it.

“Truthfully, when I first bought this place… I was scared,” she said.

But what keeps her coming back each day is remembering Jonathan and his courage.

“He’s brought me a lot of strength, especially when it comes to my work,” she said. “There would be days when I wanted to quit, but I would turn around and look at Batman. Jonathan fought for 14 months harder than any adult I’ve ever seen. If he could do it, I could.”

Jacoby keeps a Batman figurine at the flower shop and picture of her nephew on her desk.

“He smiled up until the very end. He was really amazing,” she said.

Jacoby and her husband are active in raising money for charity events that benefit Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Last year, they helped raise $11,000. Jacoby is also ear-marking money to install queen-sized beds at the CHOC hospital to put into “comfort” rooms, so parents can lay with their sick children. In the future, she plans to donate 10 percent of the flower shop’s earnings toward children’s cancer research.


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