Fundraiser planned for burned Northfield Center boy

Cookout to be at VFW on Aug. 14

Northfield Center resident Gabe James two years ago with Mary Beddell, president of the Josette Beddell Memorial Foundation, which provide financial assistance to families affected by breast cancer. Gabe had organized a fundraiser, including a car wash, that raised nearly $2,000 for the organization.

NORTHFIELD CENTER — Two years ago, 12-year-old Gabe James took the lead helping families impacted by breast cancer and now he and his family could use some help with medical bills after he was burned in a fire in June.

The community is invited to an “all you can eat cookout” fundraiser at Northfield VFW Post 6768 — 8584 Olde Eight Road in Northfield Center — on Aug. 14 from 5 to 11 p.m.

Mike James, Gabe’s father, said the bills are going to add up.

“We’re not sure how much we’re going to owe,” he said. “We did some math and we hit like $50,000, but we’re not sure how much insurance is going to pay.”

He added, “Right now, our goal is $20,000 and we’re hoping to seat about 100 to 150 people plus.”

Mike said the accident happened in the family’s back yard following of evening of roasting marshmallows on a fire on June 6.

“It was at the end of the night, so it was just embers, and Gabe’s a curious little boy, so he wanted to see what happens if you pour gas on a fire,” said Mike.

Gabe suffered third-degree burns on the left side of his face, ear and chin, on his upper left side and around his left bicep. To add some extra sting to it, Mike James is a firefighter/paramedic, formerly with Northfield Village and now at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. He is also a paramedic at Cleveland Clinic Marymount Hospital in Garfield Heights. Gabe’s grandfather, Rick James, a former township trustee, was a firefighter with the township’s former fire department.

Mike said he has worked to teach all seven of his children fire safety.

“It’s obviously ironic,” said Mike.

Gabe was in Akron Children’s Hospital’s burn unit for 15 days and had already had two skin grafts, using his own healthy skin, with the probability that he’ll need more — though how many is uncertain.

“It all depends on how he grows,” said Mike. “It could be one, two, it could be 20. That’s why we’re doing the benefit because who knows when he’s older what insurance is going to be like in costs and stuff.”

For now, Gabe is home from the hospital. He has some discomforts from itchiness and drafts and sunlight irritate his skin.

“His spirits are up, though,” said Mike. “He’s always in a good mood.”

Gabe said he has some discomfort.

“Doing OK,” he said. “I’ve been better. I can’t do that much because of my burns. I’m a little tired. It’s hard to get comfortable in bed.”

“He’s a tough kid, though,” said his father.

When asked if he had anything else he wanted to say, Gabe said, “I would tell other kids not to play with fire.”

Tickets for the cookout are $12 for adults and $6 for children 12 and under and can be purchased online at or by calling Mike James at 216-323-0642. Donations can also be made online by searching “Gabe’s Burn Recovery” on GoFundMe.

Food will include burgers, hot dogs, and non-alcoholic beverages, though guests can bring their own beer.

Takeout is also available, though this is limited to two hot dogs, two burgers, a soda and a bag of chips.

Tickets include an entry to a drawing and there will also be a Chinese auction, 50/50 and side boards. Winners do not have to be present. Mike said a lot of prizes have been donated, including gift cards from local businesses, and a spa day.

“I’m very grateful that people are trying to help me and my family,” said Gabe.

The “kid friendly” event will also include a DJ and performers dressed as superheroes and princesses.

The event is outdoors and social distancing and cleaning precautions will be observed. Masks will be available.

“As far as I know, as long as they keep the 6-foot distance, there is not really any issue,” said Mike. “The pavilion is pretty big and they have picnic tables outside so I don’t foresee it being an issue, but obviously if we notice it is, we’ll control it. We’re definitely not going to break any rules.”

Mike said that Gabe, as a community service project, organized an effort two years ago that raised nearly $2,000 for the Josette Beddell Memorial Foundation, a Northeast Ohio organization that provides financial assistance to families impacted by breast cancer.

“It was his idea and he ran the show,” said Mike. “A few family members had breast cancer and I think he saw a commercial and that’s just what popped into his head.”

Mike said the fundraiser included setting up jars to collect money at local businesses and running a car wash one day at the Bainbridge Fire department.

“We washed cars for about six hours,” said Mike.

Now, he said , he believes the community will come together to help Gabe.

“This is why we stay, because of the way the community rallies around people,” he said. “Strangers are sending Gabe letters. It’s amazing how the community is rallying around Gabe and we appreciate it and we’re hoping to see a lot of people on the 14th.”

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at or @JeffSaunders_RP.