MONROEVILLE, Pa.—

Seventh grader Jesse Kaufman first learned about Jasmine Boden’s illness — a rare form of brain cancer called Chardoma — when he was in fourth grade. “He thought she was so brave,” Jesse’s mother, Liana Kaufman, said. “At the time he gave me all the money he had — $20 — to send to her, and he wrote her a letter, too.”

The next year, Jesse and Jasmine were placed in the same fifth grade class. “Jasmine had never responded to Jesse’s letter, but he walked right up to her and said, ‘You’re Jasmine! I think you’re a hero,’” Liana said. “They became fast friends after that.”

Two years later, Jesse celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. Part of the tradition involves giving money to the young person, and Jesse’s parents had told him he could use some for anything he wanted and save the rest for college. “But one day he said to me, ‘I want to do a Bar Mitzvah mitzvah,’” Liana said.

In Judaism, “mitzvah” refers to a good deed. “He said, ‘I want to take every penny I get and put it towards Jasmine’s medical expenses. It’s the least I can do for them.’”

Jesse was given just over $4,800 for his Bar Mitzvah and his parents added money to make his gift $5,000. “I knew I would get money in the future and to me it feels more good giving someone something instead of receiving something,” Jesse said. “So I decided to give her the money.”

Jasmine has had three surgeries, including one to fuse her skull to her neck. “I want to thank everyone for helping me, praying for me, [being] there for me since I was 9 in that hospital,” Jasmine said.

“Actually, [she] missed almost two years of school, but two years socially as well,” said Lisa McClintock, Jasmine’s mom. “So, [Jesse] helped her in two ways – monetary, you know, money, and also just being such a good friend.”

Jesse also started a fundraiser on GoFundMe to help his friend, whose ongoing illness necessitates costly, months-long trips to Boston for treatment.

“Because her mom is on disability, it is difficult for them to afford these trips as well as certain medical procedures that are not covered by insurance,” Jesse wrote. “My goal is to raise another $5000 (or more) to help Jasmine and her mom with their [accumulating] medical expenses. I am hoping that when people hear my story, they will feel just as good as I did to help out. Even a small donation helps!!!”

Besides writing, R. McKinley loves reading (especially historical fiction and science books), playing piano and flute, being involved in politics and community, working out, enjoying nature, and hanging out with four wonderful cats.