Published: April 18, 2024 By

In the summer of 1997, Monica and Mark Martinez welcomed their third child into the world. Born on July 2nd, baby Jace’s arrival would the beginning of an unexpected and challenging journey, and a spark of inspiration to help many other people in the distant future.

His first cry in the delivery room was different, signaling that something was wrong. Despite the initial joy, concern quickly overshadowed the celebration. For the first four weeks at home, Jace struggled with nursing and wasn't gaining weight as expected. Monica, sensing that something was wrong despite reassurances that all was fine, felt a nagging worry. The four-week check-upJace Martinez brought alarming news: he had dropped a significant amount of weight that would trigger a series of medical interventions that would define the next months of their lives.

The family's local pediatrician, puzzled by the baby's symptoms, recommended immediate specialized care. Thus began their long relationship with Denver Children's Hospital. The baby was admitted to the NICU, where a team of specialists conducted extensive tests to diagnose his condition. He was eventually diagnosed with a rare metabolic disorder.

The diagnosis led to a new regimen of treatments including a special diet and G-tube feeding. The complexity of his condition required constant medical attention and frequent hospital visits, including emergency flights for life-saving care. Despite these challenges, the hospital staff's dedication and expertise provided a source of strength and comfort for the family.

At home, the situation was no less demanding. Managing his dietary needs, ensuring proper intake of calories, and handling various medical equipment became part of daily life. The family adapted to this new normal, with immense support from relatives and friends who helped care for the baby's two older brothers and assisted with other needs.

Throughout his short life, Jace showed remarkable resilience and an infectious joy. He eventually learned to sit, crawl, and interact playfully with those around him, despite being slightly developmentally delayed. His laughter and bright spirit made a lasting impact on everyone he met.

Sadly, in December 1998, after catching a cold that led to severe complications, he was readmitted to the hospital. The situation rapidly deteriorated, and he passed away at the age of 18 months. Despite the years that have passed, his memory remains a vivid and cherished presence in his family's life.

“When a family loses a child, it usually devastates them and destroys them. That's not going to be Jace's legacy. We got better and stronger. What we want is when he looks down at us, we want to be proud of looking down at us. He's our favorite subject no matter how hard it is to talk about.”

Inspired by the profound challenges and the unwavering determination of Jace and his family. As they navigated the obstacles of his medical needs, from intensive hospital stays at Denver's Children’s Hospital to countless therapies at home, Monica and Mark became deeply educated and profoundly committed to not just managing his condition, but striving to maximize his potential.

This dedication didn't fade even with Jace’s passing; it evolved into a broader mission. Monica and Mark witnessed first-hand the gap between the needs of children and young adults withMonica and Mark with Baby Jace special needs and the resources available to them. They saw the remarkable efforts made by medical professionals and therapists and realized the impact that dedicated support could have on those facing similar struggles. This realization sparked the idea for Jace's Place.

 Fostering Independence and Transforming Lives Through Support and Skill-Building

Established in 2021, Jace's Place aims to be the bridge that helps individuals reach their full potential. The services offered are comprehensive, tailored to meet a wide range of needs. From social skills training to mentorship, from guidance on avoiding negative influences such as gangs to practical advice on bullying, Jace’s Place provides resources that extend far beyond the medical.

We offer a social skills development and mentoring program including basic life skills education for children with special needs, disadvantaged and underserved children, and all children who can benefit by following our four-step path in a safe, structured, and positive environment.Jaces Place Logo

Further, the institute recognizes the importance of everyday skills that many take for granted: how to shop for groceries, manage a home, prepare for job interviews, and craft resumes. These life skills are essential for fostering independence and self-reliance, qualities that can transform lives. It’s about providing the tools and support necessary for individuals with special needs to navigate their challenges and seize opportunities for growth and improvement. The organization continues beam with Jace’s love, resilience, and presence 

Through their work, they honor their son’s legacy, ensuring that his life continues to inspire and make a difference in the lives of many. Jace’s Place isn’t just a tribute to a beloved son; it’s a living testament to the power of hope and the human spirit’s capacity to overcome.

Building Community Connections 

Located in Pueblo, Colorado, Monica and Mark have realized the importance of a small town and tight knit community that comes together. Despite its modest size, Pueblo is a place where the community consistently comes together, pooling resources to assist residents. For nearly 50 years, Pueblo has fostered a unique partnership between law enforcement and the biker community, working together to provide Christmas gifts for children annually. As long-standing events coordinators with deep family ties to these efforts, Monica and Mark reflect on the profound connections and resources that have been cultivated over decades.

Pueblo has cultivated other opportunities for the founders as well. In March of this year, Latino Chamber of Commerce of Pueblo and The Southern Colorado Small Business Development Center hosted the Demistifying Entrepreneurship Program, led by Leeds School of Business. Here, Monica and Mark made lasting connections and learned valuable knowledge about the realm of entrepreneurship, and the interworkings of owning and operating a business. The program also helped them realize their vision for the future of Jace’s Place. 

The goal is to incorporate practical training programs in areas like automotive work, construction, and computer technology, which are designed to be self-sustaining and geared towards the interests and passions of their participants. Recognizing the varied interests of individuals, these programs will not only focus on technical skills but also offer exposure to potential careers in fields like culinary arts and healthcare IT.Monica and Mark Martinez

In addition to technical training, Jace’s Place is committed to teaching valuable life skills such as time management and financial planning, which are essential for personal and professional success. The founders believe in the power of exposure and experience, aiming to partner with local businesses to allow participants to shadow professionals and see firsthand what their future careers might entail.

As Jace’s Place grows, Monica and Mark plan to engage more deeply with the community, forming partnerships that enhance available resources and extend their reach. This approach ensures that while they can’t be everything to everyone, they can significantly impact many by collaborating with other organizations and leveraging their strengths.

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