Central New York, Feature, Health

Monkey doll in kindergarten classroom acts as symbol of love

Venkataraman- Banana Jack

by Karthik Venkataraman SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News)–

The strongest of bonds are the ones that last even when life is at its most difficult. One kindergartner’s care for a new student at St. Rose of Lima in North Syracuse is for a love he’s bananas over.

Kindergartners can be known for monkeying around, but in this kindergarten classroom, there is a monkey doll named Banana Jack. Another Jack in the classroom makes sure Banana Jack keeps up his perfect attendance by taking him everywhere.

The monkey can be quite the goof ball.

“Sometimes when I’m in class, Banana Jack just doesn’t do his work; he just stares at me. I’m like Banana Jack, why are you staring at me? You need to do your work,” kindergartner Adrianna said.

Banana Jack is a math whiz, his technology skills are improving in computer class, but maybe his favorite part of the day is lunch. A new student, Banana Jack sits in the same seats every day.

But whose monkey is it? Banana Jack belongs to another kindergartner named Kaylee.

“I have a monkey there when I’m not at school,” Kaylee said.

Kaylee misses a lot of school because most of the time, she’s in the hospital. She was diagnosed with Wilms tumor, a type of kidney cancer, on her sixth birthday in February. She will miss a lot of school as she undergoes aggressive chemotherapy over the next 30 weeks.

To her family, adversity over a few months has felt like many years.

“Sometimes it’s like she’s not sick and it’s easy to get through the day. And sometimes it is like ‘Why?'” Kaylee’s mother Kristina Marshfield said.

Banana Jack is part of a program called Monkey in My Chair that helps cancer patients like Kaylee stay connected with their classmates.

That brings us back to Jack, who misses her the most. His attachment to Banana Jack is more about his attachment to Kaylee.

“She’s my bestest friend in the whole school,” Jack said.

The names Banana Jack and Jack are no coincidence. Kaylee named the monkey after the boy she is “ooh ooh ah ah” over.

No boy is ever good enough for a father’s daughter, but because of how close they are, Todd Marshfield can’t help but approve.

“I guess I can’t be mad at him,” he said with a laugh.

The two kids get to see each other occasionally. Jack visits her at the hospital sometimes, and Kaylee went to his birthday party a week ago. When Kaylee is feeling well enough, she goes to school once in a while too.

Jack and this monkey are pals, but it’s nothing like Jack and Kaylee’s bond. As Jack puts it, he’s totally sad. Deep down, a math problem Jack was working on best describes what class without Kaylee is like to him.

“One minus one equals zero,” Jack said.