As the dad of a child with special needs, Rich Houck knows very well that a sense of humor is an absolute necessity to get through life. But when a friendly prank he played on his son, Jacob, in the mall over Thanksgiving weekend began to draw a crowd, he taught us all a lesson: life is a gift to be cherished.
The Facebook post showcasing Houck’s heartwarming stunt took place at the mall in Deptford, New Jersey. It was shared by Nicole Prodin, an assistant manager at Buckle, who says Houck came to her with an unusual request.
“Hey can I ask a favor?” Houck asked the young woman. “My son has special needs and I wanna make him laugh, I’d like to pose in your window, if possible…”
Prodin was certainly “puzzled” at first, but agreed to Houck’s odd request, not expecting the heartwarming hilarity that would shortly follow.
As Houck climbed into the window display and played around, Jacob was so excited and amused, he had to join in!
“The whole mall was stopping to watch the action and it clearly didn’t just make my entire night,” Prodin added, noting the attention Houck’s simple, fun act drew.
In an interview with a local news outlet, Houck gave a little insight into why his joke with Jacob is so special: due to an extremely rare health condition, the fact that 21-year-old Jacob even survived childhood is a miracle.
Just before his fourth birthday, Jacob was diagnosed with an Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid brain tumor.
“It usually takes life before the age of two,” Houck, a former respiratory therapist, explained.
Jacob, however, is blessed not only to be living a full and healthy life, but to have family members like Houck and three brothers who cherish every moment, and every laugh, they get to share with him.
“He’s not supposed to be here,” Houck said. “We are enjoying every day we got with him.”