It takes a village to raise a child. These words are so true, and my family was lucky enough to live in a town where we witnessed it.

Nineteen years ago, I was blessed to become a mom to a wonderful boy. His name was Jacob, and he beat the odds.

He had been very sick when he was born, spending 15 months in intensive care before coming home. In June 1996, I moved into an apartment in Tuckerton next to Stewart's Root Beer. Jacob was on a ventilator, but I took him with me as often as possible. He went to church, shopping and the park. He was awesome, brave and happy.

In August 1997, he was able to leave the ventilator behind. He learned to walk. He eventually began school at Tuckerton Elementary. Jacob quickly became well-loved by teachers, aides, bus drivers and many others. He was always ready to laugh, in spite of all his obstacles.

As our life continued in this town, I was overwhelmed by the love and support we received. This is a huge thank you, not only to my community of Tuckerton, but also to Little Egg Harbor and Stafford townships.

Thank you to the woman at Acme who thanked me for Jacob. He was smiling and skipping, and he made her smile. Thank you to the young woman at BJ's Wholesale who always greeted him with a high-five. Thank you to the police, EMTs and ambulance companies who were there during many emergencies.

Jacob was on the Pinelands Regional High School freshman bowling team, and his teammates were awesome and encouraging. He was an acolyte at church and served with joy and enthusiasm. Jacob played baseball, first for Barnegat/Waretown Challenger and later in the Pinelands Regional Challenger League.

Everywhere we went, everything we did, we met people from our "village," and they all helped raise my son. The friends who invited Jacob to visit. The classmates who eagerly greeted him when we were out and about. Miss Linda at Dynasty Diner and Miss Debbie at Scojo's, who loved him and spent time talking with him and sharing hugs.

So to our village, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Jacob died in October, but because of each and every one of you, Jacob felt safe, cared for and loved. Remember that. And remember that with a smile, a high-five or a hello, you are helping the village raise a child.

MARION WILLEY

Tuckerton