As a special education teacher, Kerry Bremer’s job requires a lot of patience and understanding. But for one of her former students, Kerry gave more than that – she gave him a loving home and a family to call his own.
The Massachusetts resident first met Jake Manning – a boy with Down syndrome – four years ago when she became his special education teacher. Kerry was instantly drawn to him, describing the now 14-year-old as “dynamic”.
Kerry knew that his mom, Jean Manning, was sick with terminal breast cancer that had metastasized in her brain. Jean was a single mother, and though she had supportive relatives, none of them was in a position to care for Jake.
Knowing this, Kerry started a difficult yet necessary conversation with Jean. “I called her and I said, ‘I could really be overstepping the boundaries here, but I just want to let you know that if you need a backup plan for Jake, my family and I are willing to offer guardianship,'” Kerry said.
Her eyes filled with tears, and Jean nodded her head yes, clearly relieved by what she just heard. “And she said, ‘I am going to sleep better tonight than I have in a long time.'” Kerry said. “Her biggest fear was what would happen to Jake after she passed.”
At the time, Kerry had only known the Mannings for a few months. The family had just moved to Massachusetts from Florida, and Kerry was Jake’s special education teacher at the CASE Collaborative School. She made the offer after she talked with her husband, Dave, and their children, and they all agreed to help Jake.
To Kerry, it was a no-brainer – she knew that it was the right thing for her to do. “I fell in love with Jake instantly,” she revealed. “I knew he would a need a home and there was no way I wouldn’t open ours to him.”
On November 13, Jean passed away. She put her son on the bus that morning, and when she took a nap after a chemotherapy treatment, she never woke up. Last week, the Bremers fulfilled Jean’s dying wish and took in Jake to live with them.
“I’m terribly sad that Jake … doesn’t have his mom to be with him for the rest of his life,” Kerry told CNN. “But I’m very, very grateful that she trusted us to take him and be with him and share our home with him.” Over the past three years, Kerry, Dave, and Jean all worked together to make Jake’s transition to a new family as seamless as possible.
“We would take Jake to appointments together and celebrate holidays together. Jean called him ‘our son,’” Kerry said. “That must have been so hard for her, to be planning for her death, but she did a beautiful job. She was so courageous.”
Jean’s death was sudden, but Jake is handling it well.
“He says she’s in heaven with God and with his aunts. He knows that he won’t see her again. He knows that his new home is with us,” Kerry said. “He calls her his Queen Angel Mom.”
Kerry and Dave were named as Jake’s legal guardians in May, and Kerry says that they would adopt Jake if it would be the best thing for him. A GoFundMe set up to support Jake is almost on its way to reaching its $50,000 goal, having raised $43,703 in just 5 days.
Kerry and her family have been getting a lot of attention because of what they did for Jake. But for her, the real hero of this story is Jean, who did everything she could to make sure that her son would be taken care of when she’s gone.
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