GRIFFITH | From the time his little sister Carrie Ann was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor until she died at age 7 in 2011, Jake Janik was her constant friend and companion.
“He was always by her side at the hospital,” their mother, Kartrina Janik, said.
Jake Janik brought pictures and stories he had written to his sister and colored Easter eggs for her at Children’s Hospital in Chicago. He played with Carrie Ann so she wouldn’t be bored, Katrina Janik recalled.
Jake Janik even decorated their home’s walls with streamers that spelled Carrie Ann and made “welcome” signs to greet his little sister when she returned home.
While his sister was in the spotlight then, Jake Janik was always in the background, his mom said.
But this past week at the United Center during the Blackhawks media day, it was Jake Janik’s turn to shine.
An avid hockey fan, it turned out to be “one of the best days in my life,” Jacob Janik said.
The 14-year-old Griffith teen’s dream day started while assisting his mom’s boyfriend, Dave Iem, owner of Crown Point’s Sound Idea Productions. Iem was hired by the National Hockey League to provide lighting and sound systems for players’ interviews.
While waiting to help take down equipment at the day’s end, Jake Janik was invited to sit by the ice and watch the Hawks practice.
“I have been to a game before but not when no one else is there,” Jake Janik said.
At times, he stood just feet away from Hawks’ players as they were photographed and interviewed.
“He got to see the Stanley Cup up close,” Katrina Janik said. “Standing inches from it he was just glowing.”
Katrina Janik said her son was so excited his hands were shaking when he tried to take photos.
“He was texting everybody that he was standing 2 inches away from Patrick Kane,” Katrina Janik said.
At the end of the day, the NHL representative who hired Iem gave Jake Janik one of only 100 special pucks ordered for the first playoff game. It reads “National Hockey League Game One Stanley Cup Final 2013 Chicago Blackhawks vs. Boston Bruins.”
"It is a pretty cool puck,” Jake Janik said. “I am going to put it in a case.”
After getting permission from the United Center to bring Jake Janik along, Iem said he asked the incoming freshman at Griffith High School for assistance in rolling up cords and carrying equipment for the event.
Iem said he had no idea the experience would turn out to be such a special day for his girlfriend’s son.