April 7, 2014
WASHINGTON - Student-athletes and coaches from the Georgetown University football program may have initially felt worn down following its 11th early morning practice of the spring season. But two special families from the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation provided inspiration to boost the spirits of the squad, helping them gain new insight into the meaning of bravery and strength in the face of adversity.
Elijah and Jackson, two young pediatric brain tumor survivors, watched the Hoyas' Saturday morning practice with their families and Dennis Murphy, the founder of the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation. Following the practice the team met with two of their youngest fans, before heading to Leo O'Donovan Hall for the "Signing Day" ceremony, to make Elijah and Jackson official members of the Georgetown football family.
"It is an honor to be associated with the Friends of Jaclyn," Head Coach Rob Sgarlata said. "I often use the Charles Swindoll quote that "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." The Friends of Jacklyn Foundation truly embodies this sentiment. The founder, Jaclyn's father, Dennis Murphy has created an incredible opportunity for our players to help Elijah, Jackson and their families as they battle through this fight. This relationship is in no way one sided, though. Our players have and will continue to learn about the true meaning of SISU though their two new teammates. "
Sgarlata has set three principles that will serve as the foundation of his program: "4 for 40," "Men for Others," and "SISU," a Finnish phrase that translates into determination, bravery and resilience. The rest of the coaching staff has quickly adopted these traits with the team's partnership with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation being one of the first steps.
With Jack the Bulldog, the Georgetown cheerleaders and the Hoyas' coaches and student-athletes watching, Elijah and Jackson each placed Georgetown caps atop their heads and were handed their own football jerseys after signing on to become Hoyas for life.
"I think this is the most rewarding thing I've been a part of in my three-and-a-half years here," junior offensive lineman Michael Kasten said. "I think just the fact that we get to do something like this kind of helps us look at the bigger picture of life and how awesome it is to be here and be able to help someone else."
"It's been about a month and a half since we started talking to the families and to the Friends of Jaclyn and putting everything together," assistant coach Kevin Doherty said. "The weekend went great, even better than expected. The kids were tremendous and I know this is going to pay dividends that they might not even realize yet. These guys are so busy with their own lives that if they can spend part of their day doing something for someone else, it will make their life better. They might not know that secret yet, but we're going to teach it to them."
Throughout the morning, the Hoyas' student-athletes heard moving, inspirational stories from Murphy, who founded Friends of Jaclyn after his own daughter, Jaclyn, battled through pediatric brain cancer. The mothers' of Elijah and Jackson told their own stories of bravery and perseverance, reminding the Georgetown football team that their battle is never-ending and to remember to appreciate all of the little things in life.
The Hoyas were in awe of the stories they listened to on Saturday morning.
"It's amazing," junior defensive lineman Hunter Kiselick said. "We're always preaching toughness, but those guys are toughness. To go through what they go through is toughness, not what we go through, so it being a part of this helps you put things in perspective."
"It's humbling to see the works of God in such young people," junior defensive tackle Jordan Richardson said. "Especially with what I am going through now with my injury seems like pretty difficult circumstances. But it's amazing to see the Grace of God knowing that if he can strengthen young men like Elijah and Jackson to overcome pediatric brain cancer, than my injury is nothing for me to overcome with God's help. At the same time the power of influence that we, as student-athletes, have to give a child a smile is nothing more than miraculous. It's truly an honor and a blessing!"
Saturday's signing day ceremony with Elijah and Jackson is just the first part of a relationship that the Hoyas hope will last for a long time.
"Being a part of Friends of Jaclyn is an exciting opportunity for our football program," junior defensive lineman Richard Shankle said. "We have a chance to impact the lives of two amazing children and help them through their day to day challenges battling their illnesses. Being around Elijah and Jackson really made me realize how small my problems are compared to what they have to deal with daily, and their fighting attitudes will bring positive energy to the Georgetown Football Family."
"We're all really lucky to be able to go to a school like Georgetown and play football and do the things we love, so anytime we can take time of our day and give back is awesome. I'm really happy the coaches set this up."