When Life Gets Tough, Bring Snacks

The 5-year-old sibling of a toddler being treated for cancer “opens up shop” to provide sweet treats to clinical staff who are caring for his baby brother.

Jaden, JoJo and their mom and dad at their snack stand in Johns Hopkins All Children's
Published in Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital - Summer 2023

It’s not quite 12:30 p.m. on a Friday and, already, a line is forming down the hall of 7 South, the cancer floor of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Five-year-old Jaden will soon open for business, but he needs to tighten up the line first.

“OK, you are number one, you are two and you are three,” he says as he moves along the row of cheerfully enthusiastic clinical staff.

Jaden takes his seat behind a pint-sized kiosk adorned with a colorful sign that reads “Jaden and JoJo’s 7 South Snack Stand.”

Joyful selections ensue.

There are cookies, chips, fancy chocolates and fruit chews. Trail mix, popcorn and lollipops. Even iced coffees and sparkling waters. It’s an impressive spread.

Might Jaden recommend a special soda? Or the mini-confetti muffins, perhaps?

“Spread the word! I’ll be open for another hour!” Jaden says.

The pricing makes the bookkeeping easy — everything is free to his “customers,” which includes staff and patients.

Back in early March, Jaden’s little brother, JoJo, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and the family was devastated.

But a strong treatment plan and compassionate care from doctors and nurses have given them hope for JoJo’s future.

A few weeks ago, Jaden decided he wanted to do something to say thank you for all the extra special care for JoJo, whom he calls his “baby.”

He looked around the hospital room for ideas.

“Snacks! We have too many snacks in this room,” he declared to his parents. “I can share my snacks.”

Jaden began tooling around 7 South on one of the cancer unit’s tricycles, delighting nurses with candy and pictures that he drew.

But, like all budding entrepreneurs, he was inspired to go bigger.

“His imagination was going all night long,” his mother, Jennifer, says. “He finally came up with the idea of a snack stand.”

A good business manager knows how to delegate. The next morning, Jaden sent his dad to the big box store to get inventory for the snack stand debut and the rest is carb-loaded history.

Now, on any given Friday that JoJo is in the hospital for treatment, you might turn a corner and see a tiny business mogul with an enormous heart — helping others get the sugar rush they need to go do good things.

For Jaden, it’s all pretty simple.

“They take good care of JoJo, so I take care of them.”