Malachi Roberts and the Marvelous Kids Foundation
Malachi Roberts and the Marvelous Kids Foundation
Story by Katrice Williams
There’ase Johnson’s eight-year-old son Malachi Roberts shows those around him the beauty found within a pure heart. “Malachi wants to make other kids happy. The foundation makes that happen,” There’ase said of her son and the Marvelous Kids Foundation.
The selflessness and courage Malachi exemplifies at his young age is simply remarkable. He has become a real hero in the fight against childhood epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which brain cells send abnormal signals and cause seizures.
In 2016, the Marvelous Kids Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, was founded in honor of Malachi, who was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2015 when he was two years old. The foundation’s mission is to bring awareness to childhood epilepsy in local communities, including Chatham, Effingham and Bryan Counties.
In the Midst of Adversity
One night, as There’ase prepared her then two-year-old toddler for bed, he became completely motionless and unresponsive in her arms; he also began to convulse and was unable to talk.
“It was a huge and terrifying experience. I didn’t know what was going on or if he would be okay.”
There’ase and her mom Cheryl Johnson called 911. Over time, Malachi weathered extensive medical tests and procedures as the he endured similar episodes on a relatively consistent basis. There’ase and her family remained hopeful to find answers. Malachi was referred to Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta, where he was finally diagnosed with epilepsy, and more specifically, frontal lobe seizure disorder, named for a type of seizure that stems from the front of the brain.
Malachi was also diagnosed with a second type of epileptic seizure, one which has yet to be medically named.
There’ase and her family have learned more about the condition since that first frightening episode, striving to build and maintain a strong and loving support system for Malachi.
“I’m learning how to be of assistance to him when he’s going through the seizures and after he’s had them. I’m learning to cope with it better. He encourages me, saying, ‘It’s okay. I’m fine.’”
There’ase recalls Malachi once saying, “One day, I’m going to make a medicine so that all the kids with epilepsy won’t have seizures anymore, and we will all be fine.” There’ase marvels at the fortitude her young son exhibits. “The drive he shows, in spite of his circumstances, is phenomenal,” she said.
Small Child, Big Heart
Big things often come in small packages. Malachi has always had a big heart, especially for other children living with epilepsy.
“I think it’s great to do stuff for kids. When I was in the hospital, people helped me,” Malachi said. He loves donating to help others, particularly to the Dwaine & Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital of Savannah and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
The Marvelous Kids Foundation
Jonathan Johnson is the CEO and founder of Marvelous Kids Foundation. He is also Malachi’s uncle, who spearheaded the cause after seeing the effects of epilepsy on his nephew. He sought to make a difference in the lives of all children affected by the disorder.
“This means the world to me. I want to show the kids that this makes them unique and daring and that they’re not alone. I want to show them that they’re not limited and can do things like other kids. I want them to see that they’re loved, not helpless,” he said.
Further, There’ase and Gina Rhodes, her godsister, actively participate in the foundation. Malachi’s nana Cheryl has supported the cause from day one, as she has always been committed to her grandson’s health and recovery.
Just a Normal Kid
Malachi enjoys all the regular things that most kids like doing. He has played baseball, soccer and karate over the years and likes to play basketball in his backyard. He is an avid reader who wants to be both a doctor and a lawyer one day. There’ase teases him that he will have to maintain a lot of balance for that. He also says that he also wouldn’t mind becoming a zookeeper. Malachi loves animals—especially anacondas. However, they pale in comparison to his favorite of all—his service dog Bentley, a Cocker Spaniel that has been with him for nearly three years.
“They’re crazy about each other,” Cheryl said.
All for the Cause
The foundation persists in helping families affected by epilepsy cope and increase their understanding of the disorder by providing them with beneficial communication and resources. The foundation began a support group in 2019 at the Bull Street Library in Savannah, though the initiative was postponed due to the pandemic.
Flyers are dispersed to various venues throughout the area while informative handouts are given to schools; social media is used as a beneficial outlet.
In 2018, the foundation began hosting various annual community events to support the cause. “Walk a Mile for Malachi” is a benefit walk usually held each April in Garden City, beginning in Sharon Park. Several Garden City officials, including Mayor Don Bethune, have attended. Other local officials have participated, including Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, along with other citizens throughout the Lowcountry.
In addition, Marvelous Kids hosts “Hoops for a Cure,” an annual benefit basketball game held in May at the Garden City Gym. Several Harlem Globetrotter legends from cities across the country have come to show their support each year. Larry “Gator” Rivers, a Globetrotter great, is responsible for initially spreading the word to the other Globetrotters.
One of Malachi’s favorite events all year is the Christmas Toy Drive held each December. The foundation raises funds to donate toys to Memorial Health University Medical Center for Christmas. Malachi even donates his own allowance toward the cause. He loves handing out gifts to children there, once reminding his nana, “When I was in the hospital and didn’t feel well, people brought me toys.” Talk about understanding the Golden Rule!
The family appreciates all the venues that have extended their generous support over the years, including Southern Girl Trucking, Home Depot, JanSport, Macy’s, Target, Walmart and Sam’s Club, to name a few.
“We appreciate them all!” Cheryl said.
Malachi is a little boy with a really big heart who, at his young age, is already making a remarkable difference in the world.
For more information on ways to donate to Marvelous Kids Foundation, email [email protected] or call (912) 349-9725.