The Highlands Civic Center was packed with people clad in red on Saturday to show their emotional and financial support for Jackson Hall, a former Highlands School student fighting against cancer.
Pictured at the top of the article is Jackson Hall on the right wearing a white hat sitting with friends who traveled back from school to support him.
Jackson Hall, son of Chuck and Jane Hall, is a graduate of Summit Charter School and a 2016 graduate of Highlands High School and resident of Cashiers, N.C. He is a freshman at Appalachian State University.
Hundreds of people from Highlands and Cashiers, and many of Jackson’s high school friends who made the trip back from college to support him, attended a fundraiser at the Civic Center over the weekend. Activities included a cake walk, live and silent auction, raffle tickets, and a dinner provided by On the Verandah. Businesses from all over the area donated items for the auction to raise money for Jackson’s future treatment.
Jackson, who is not one to relish the spotlight or be the center of attention, was “blown away,” at the show of support from his family and friends.
“This is amazing,” said Jackson. “It really shows how special this community is. To know that this group of people is here supporting me through all of this, I never feel like I’m alone. This has really been a good boost for me.”
In 2017, Jackson was diagnosed with a germ cell tumor of retroperitoneum and received treatment and later surgery at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital. In February 2018, there was evidence that the cancer had returned. After extensive treatment, cancer is still evident.
Jackson’s mother, Jane, said that seeing the outpouring of support from the community has been incredible.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Jane. “To see the generosity and the love that has been shown to us by this community, it’s absolutely overwhelming.”
The fundraiser was spearheaded by Highlands High School math teacher Gina Billingsley, along with many other friends and volunteers. One of Jackson’s former basketball coaches, Bryan Dearth, said Jackson was always positive regardless of the outcome of a game.
“He’s super fun,” said Dearth. “He’s always in a good mood, always has a smile on his face, and he’ll give you 100 percent every day.”
Dearth added that since graduating from Highlands School, Jackson has occasionally stopped by the old gym to say hello.
“He comes back from time to time, and that really makes you feel good,” he said. “We obviously did something right because he still likes us. It’s nice when players come back to check on you.”
Pictured below are donations provided by several local businesses for the silent and live auctions.
Highlands School reading and AIG teacher, Melanie Miller, remembers Jackson from his days in Highlands and how positive he was.
“He’s such a great kid,” said Miller. “Always smiling and always friendly.”
Miller added that once the idea for the fundraiser came to light it snowballed from there.
“All it takes is one or two people and we just go with it,” she said. “And I just think we live in a community that believes in giving and helping others. I love being part of that.”
Cord Strawn is a long-time friend of the Hall family and wanted to show his support. He said he was encouraged by the amount of people he saw in attendance.
“I think it’s awesome to see the community come together like this,” said Strawn.
If interested in donating, contact Gina Billingsley at 828-421-7645 or Andrea Chalker at 828-421-7121.
Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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