New Ipswich boy's bike accident inspires pro stars

By KEVIN LANDRIGAN
New Hampshire Union Leader
December 23. 2017 5:33PM

Josiah "JoJo" Hakala of New Ipswich is in intensive care at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Mass. after a bicycle accident. 

NEW IPSWICH - A brave, 10-year-old golf phenomenon's fight for his life following a tragic bike accident has moved some of New England's finest professional athletes to rally to his side.

While Josiah "JoJo" Hakala of New Ipswich struggles to recover in intensive care unit at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Mass., his friends and admirers have stepped up to lead a campaign for financial help to this family now facing mounting expenses.

JoJo fell off his bike Dec. 7.

What started seemingly as a minor injury become a life-threatening one, leaving the boy with a lacerated liver and a damaged pancreas.

Surgeons have been unable to remove a blockage to his pancreatic duct which has left JoJo unable to eat or drink for more than two weeks.

"With the love and support of many, this stumbling stone he has encountered will turn into a stepping stone for this young boy," says the GoFundMe page created to try and raise $200,000 to support the Hakala family.

"Please continue to pray for JoJo; he needs a miracle right now."

JoJo Hakala isn't just some kid with a natural golf swing in the backyard.

At the age of 5, he began competing in the U.S. Kids Boston Local Tour playing in 90 tournaments.

He's won a staggering 37 of them, finishing in the top three 76 times.

JoJo has competed in three world championships at Pinehurst, N.C., and is ranked 63rd in the world.

Jesse Dixon of Bedford said his son, Leo, 11, started competing with JoJo five years ago.

For much of the year, the two hang out with each other almost every weekend in tournaments throughout New England. The boys have become close friends, Dixon said.

"Every once in a while you meet a child who is so polite and so exceptional in his character and his manner that they leave an unforgettable impression on you. To us, that's JoJo," Dixon said during an interview Saturday.

"We just decided it was our mission now to change his life and make it better and lift him up in what little way that we can."

Dixon is an executive in the sports footwear field so when he told some of New England's most recognizable sports stars about JoJo's plight, they couldn't wait to help.

"JoJo, I heard about your accident and wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas," said New England Patriot Hall of Famer Troy Brown in a video message.

"I want to encourage you to stay positive and think great thoughts and you will be better and be home again before you know it."

Boston Bruins standout defensemen Torey Krug and star winger David Pasternak sent well wishes as well.

"I hope you are feeling all right, stay strong," Krug said. "I heard you are a great golfer, huge hockey fan, I just want to send you our best wishes."

Pasternak chipped in with, "It's Pasta. Hey, continue in your recovery and we so wish you a speedy one."

And there was Red Sox all-star utility player Brock Holt wearing his "Christmas colors" while trying to pump up JoJo.

"I am praying for you, thinking about you...hope you get back on your feet again soon, buddy," Holt said.

Hakala obviously has the golf gene.

His father, Jeff, is a volunteer high school golf coach and uncle, Mike, is a two-time New Hampshire Amateur champion.

The boy's mother, Suzanne, has stayed at the hospital throughout this ordeal, Dixon said.

Due to an illness that went undiagnosed for years, JoJo's father has been unable to work more than a few days a week, he said.

"The burden of having a child injured so seriously is a heavy one, and, naturally, financial worries add to that load, so we ask that you please consider helping them monetarily during this extremely difficult time in their lives," the GoFundMe page states.

Dixon said he believes this cause will go viral once it's fully known.

"My first step is awareness and my second is action," Dixon said.

"This has further opened our hearts and for us it is the essence of the Christmas spirit.''

Del Frisco's, the renowned Boston steakhouse, is donating 15 meals for Hakala's extended family to enjoy on Christmas Eve, Dixon said.

Out of respect for the Hakala family's privacy and their need to focus 100 percent on JoJo's care, Dixon has asked that any inquiries or offers of help be directed to Dixon's e-mail at jessedixon@prodigy.net.

JoJo's grandfather, Mike Martel, wrote his GoFundMe page, which you can visit here: www.gofundme.com/josiahhakalafund.

klandrigan@unionleader.com


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