Zach Rice: Creating a Distraction

A self-described extrovert, Zach Rice says he can talk to anybody, anywhere about anything. 

“It’s easy for me to always be putting myself out there,” says the freshman from West Morris Central High School in Long Valley. “I’m the kid that dyes his hair pink for the entire month of October for breast cancer awareness.” 

With this kind of winning personality, Mr. Rice has been able to raise more than $75,000 for Goryeb Children’s Hospital in the last four years. His idea to donate money to Goryeb came from a time of severe pain in his own life with an infected hip and several hospital stays.

“I was hospitalized with a septic hip infection,” says the young philanthropist. “It was very painful, but when my dad brought in my video gaming system and I had this activity as a distraction, it was a lifesaver to me.”

During a follow-up hospital stay, Mr. Rice had an external fixator placed on his hip, a large metal bar that was connected to him through metal pins in his muscles and bones.

“It was terrible, but lying there is when I realized I wanted to raise money that would help other kids have distractions when they were in the hospital,” he says.

He thought the best way to help was to find a way to purchase video gaming systems for all the hospital rooms at Goryeb.

After being discharged, he and his mom began working with Kids4Kids, the Foundation’s youth philanthropic committee whose fundraisers benefit the hospital’s pediatric services. They came up with the idea of an Annual Action for Distraction 5K Family Fun Run/Walk.

The first one was held in May 2013 at Loantaka Brook Reservation in Morristown and has become a popular and much-anticipated annual event ever since. The first two events raised more than $40,000—enough to purchase gaming systems for every room at Goryeb.

Last year’s event raised another $20,000 and has allowed Mr. Rice to upgrade the older systems and add new games. He has also donated some of the proceeds toward art and music programs for the children.

“The whole thing has been an incredible experience for me,” he says. “I really credit my mom because she’s the one who showed me that, if I can dream it, I can do it.” 

This conviction of dreaming it and then doing it has been his motivation, especially when he went from business to business raising money and getting sponsors with the fixator still attached to his hip. It was removed less than a month before his first Action for Distraction event, and he walked the course with the help of a cane, crossing the finish line after about an hour.

Today, he has a slight limp and barely any pain: “I’m pretty much just your normal teenager,” says the 14 year old who touts his mom’s homemade meat sauce as his favorite food.

Reflecting back, he has found the silver lining in all of his medical challenges: “I don’t think I’d be the person I am today if it hadn’t happened to me.” 

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