JD Slajchert continues Luc Bodden’s legacy


Mia Melideo and Sarah Levy/Talon

JD Slajchert with his new book “Moonflower”

Oak Park High School alumnus JD Slajchert visited the high school on official Luc Bodden Day to announce his debut novel “Moonflower,” inspired by Bodden and Slajchert’s friendship.

Luc Bodden was born with sickle-cell anemia. He received a bone marrow transplant at the age of 7 in hopes of a cure. In 2016, when he was 10 years old, Luc Bodden passed away from complications caused by a blood infection. Slajchert was a close friend of Bodden’s — their journey beginning in 2013 during Slajchert’s senior year. Just last year, the Oak Park Municipal Advisory Council approved Luc Bodden Day to occur Sept. 14 to “encourage and remind us that the meaningful time we spent with each other should be treasured as tomorrow is not promised to anyone.”

During his senior year, Slajchert was approached after a basketball game by Bodden’s older sister, Tarren Bodden. She told Slajchert that her younger brother wanted nothing more than to meet and play basketball with Slajchert. When Slajchert asked when Bodden wanted to meet up, Tarren informed Slajchert that Bodden was entering a year-long period of isolation for a bone marrow transplant, so it would have to be soon.

“I was so blown away by that,” Slajchert said. “I was 16, 17 years old. To have someone tell you that at that age is just, you feel like ‘what did I ever do to deserve someone to look up to me like that?’”

Slajchert said that he spent the next four years hanging out, playing basketball and eating pizza with Bodden.

“[It was] kind of a blur,” Slajchert said.

When Bodden died, Slajchert was struggling to move forward and entered a period of emotional depression. He was playing Division 1 basketball at University of California, Santa Barbara, which kept his mind occupied during the season.

“It was a short-term fix to a long-term problem,” Slajchert said.

To help him grieve, Slajchert purchased a journal, where he spent time writing each day.

“I bought a journal and just started hand-writing about it every day. Just about memories I’d had and things that had happened to me with Luc and with other friends of mine,” Slajchert said. “That was probably the happiest time of my life.”

Slajchert hand wrote the entire first draft of “Moonflower,” his debut fictional novel, with Lee being the main character, who represents Bodden.

This September 14, two years after Bodden’s passing, Slajchert made an announcement on the loudspeaker at the beginning of third period classes.

“To me this day is much more than just remembering a brave young man, but continuing to remind ourselves of [Bodden’s] strength and compassion,” Slajchert said over classroom speakers. “Through the darkest of times he never gave up, he never stopped smiling. But most importantly, he never stopped being a friend.”

Slajchert said Bodden remains close to his heart and their journey has helped Slajchert decide to continue writing.

“In a lot of ways people will always say that he looked up to me, but I like to think that it was the other way around,” Slajchert said.

Slajchert’s novel will be released on Oct. 14 for purchase on Amazon and on his website.

“I wouldn’t say anything other than the word — family,” Slajchert said when describing his relationship with the Bodden family. “Luc wasn’t just my best friend on September 14th, he was my best friend since the day we met.”

As a way to continue Bodden’s legacy, Slajchert concluded his announcement to Oak Park high schoolers by telling students to remember the values Bodden taught the Oak Park community.

“Today, Luc wouldn’t have wanted us to be sad, he would have wanted us to remember all of the good that he brought into this world in such a short time,” Slajchert said.