By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Jonathon Gutierrez, 15, has been a caretaker for most of his childhood.
The 10th grader at Olympic Heights High School comes home from school and immediately helps his mother, Jennifer, who has multiple sclerosis as well take care of his younger brother and grandmother.
“He’s an amazing child,” Jennifer Gutierrez said of her son. “He’s selfless. He would give anybody the shirt off his back. He’s a strong kid.”
Their story was recently shared on HBO’s “Vice News Tonight” and The Doctors, where the mom and son video conferenced into the show.
The segment on The Doctors was focused on teen caregivers.
Since he was in the sixth grade, Jonathon Gutierrez has been a part of the American Association of Caregiving Youth.
The AACY’s mission to be a resource for children who sacrifice their education, health, well-being and childhood to provide care for family members who are ill, injured, elderly or disabled.
The goal is for no child to drop out of school because they have to help their family at home.
Jennifer Gutierrez said she was asked by the founder of AACY to appear on the television shows.
Jennifer Gutierrez said she would share her story if it meant it could help one child who didn’t know that there are resources available for them.
“If I can save one child then it is not all for nothing,” she said.
She said her son hasn’t had it easy as a child. Her mother is suffering from pre-dementia, so the family moved into her home to help after her husband died and her younger son, who is 8, has already undergone eight surgeries for a cranial disorder.
Through it all, she said AACY has been there to help.
“The program is amazing,” she said. “Its worthwhile for every county to have it. The whole country should have this program, not just Palm Beach County. If I need anything, all I have to do is call and they are right there.”
Her son has had the same mentor since he entered the program in the sixth grade.
“They are always there for me,” Johnathon Gutierrez said. “Anything I need help with, they are there to help me.”
He said he doesn’t mind helping out at home.
“It’s what I have got to do,” he said.
His one escape is football. He has been playing since he was 8 and currently plays slot receiver.
The Doctors surprised him with a special message from one of his favorite players Jakeem Grant of the Miami Dolphins, and tickets for his family to a Dolphins football game.
Additionally, Adidas gave Jonathan over $1,000 worth of merchandise including cleats and clothing.
And finally, The Doctors surprised the family with monthly care for one year from Home Care Assistance, so Jonathan can focus on school and playing football.