We wish we could go back and take that final exam, only this time pass.
We wish we could start our careers over and jump-start the success we’ve had.
We wish we could see that pitch coming in and swing this time, instead of standing there and taking strike three to end the ballgame.
On Tuesday, I had one of those moments where I wished I could turn back time. And I’ll tell you now, they don’t happen every day.
This time, I wish I was a Division I college athlete again at Rutgers University, like I was from 1999-2003 as an Academic All-American Scarlet Knight in track and field. The reason: so that I could "live in the moment and play in the moment," as the motto suggests for the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation.
In 2004, 9-year-old Jaclyn Murphy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Her life immediately changed. But little did young Jaclyn know that by looking for inspiration elsewhere, she would actually become the story and inspiration for so many other beautiful children with pediatric brain tumors.
You see, Jaclyn’s vision and dream of being a college lacrosse player was put on hold at the time of her diagnosis. Instead, she was forced to endure hospital beds and chemotherapy rather than lacrosse fields and championship titles. Her strength no longer supported her dream, but her spirit and enthusiasm were as vibrant as ever. So Jaclyn chose to share that wealth of encouragement, guts and determination with an athletic program that had not seen a national championship, in any sport, in 64 years.
Northwestern University, located in Evanston, Ill., is a distinguished college that was established in 1851. With just under 8,500 undergraduates, Northwestern boasts a distinguished list of alumni that include presidential nominees, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, Academy Award recipients and even two Supreme Court justices.
But even with this impressive list, one person in particular also stands out among Northwestern’s illustrious extended family.
In 2005, just months after Jaclyn was diagnosed with a brain tumor, the women’s lacrosse team "adopted" Jaclyn as an honorary member. Wouldn’t you know, Jaclyn inspired the Wildcats through a perfect season, capped off by the WIldcats' first NCAA national championship in 64 years.
But the bond didn’t end there. Jaclyn realized the impact this women’s lacrosse team had on her treatment and happiness. As a result, she wanted to make sure that other children in her shoes had similar experiences.
In 2005, the Murphy family founded the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation to improve the quality of life for children with pediatric brain tumors and their families. The vision of the family was monumental. If, just for one day, one child could forget about his or her pain and enjoy the comfort of a team — and the love and support that teammates bring to one another — then the challenge was a success.
The foundation pairs a child with a college or high school athletic team. The child then becomes a member of that team, relishing in the ups and downs that come with any season. There are good days and bad days, much like those of a child receiving care for cancer. There are friendships, lifelong bonds, companionship, laughter and endless text messages and e-mails.
These are just a few of the examples that helped Jaclyn get through her most difficult days.
After the 2005 season, after it met teammate Jaclyn Murphy, the Northwestern University women’s lacrosse team went on to win an unheard-of five consecutive NCAA national championships, even going undefeated in 2005 and 2009. The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation also grew to boast more than 250 children adopted with more than 1,024 sports teams anxiously waiting.
The partnership was a match made in heaven. It’s believable, magical and inspirational all at the same time.
On Thursday, June 17, the first annual Friends of Jaclyn Boston Gala will be held at The InterContinental Boston. Honorary chair and speaker, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, will explain his personal involvement in the foundation. He, among the many other families who have been touched by the Friends of Jaclyn, will share the stories and experiences of this amazing relationship between team and player, who, in this case, happens to be a child affected by a horrible disease.
You too can be a part of this amazing event. The website is www.friendsofjaclyn.com. A few minutes on this website will change your perspective on life, and will hopefully inspire you the way it inspired me.
Jaclyn’s story, my friends, is why this former college athlete wishes it was 2003 again, so I, too, could experience what it’s like to adopt a wonderful, inspiring, talented individual into my life.