Soccer team makes ‘huge impact’
Just as the fall 2009 soccer season was about to begin, head coach Jonathan Thayil saw a commercial for Friends of Jacyln Foundation, which was inspired by Jaclyn Murphy who was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumor, in March 2004 when she was nine years old.
The purpose of the foundation is to match teams from high schools and colleges with children with brain tumors and their families to improve quality of life by establishing a support network.
Thayil contacted the foundation to see how Shepherd could get involved. “The team thought it was a great idea,” Thayil said.
Friends of Jaclyn (FOJ) then researched children in the area who were undergoing treatment and may be a candidate for Shepherd’s friend and adopted team member. That fall, Justice Redman, an 11-year-old of Moorefield, attended a home soccer game, where the team held a formal adoption ceremony. Justice was first diagnosed on July 21, 2006, but has been in remission since 2007. The team supports him as he goes through follow-up appointments.
Justice’s mother, Juanita Redman, who graduated from Shepherd’s nursing program in 1996, said that she initially heard about FOJ on a Yahoo! Discussion page for brain tumor patients. Redman said her son was upset that because of the tumor, he couldn’t play football, and members on the discussion board suggested they contact FOJ to see about getting Justice partnered with a local team.
“It’s a good experience,” Redman said. “He looks up to the guys and they make him feel like part of the team. He has big brothers he can look up to, a team that’s his own.”
Redman said that Justice recently finished his three-month visits with his specialist in Washington, D.C., and will continue six-month visits for the next couple of years.
“He’s an assistant coach and teammate when he’s here,” said Thayil.
“So many students are so concerned with everything that surrounds them. They don’t do enough community service,” Thayil said.
“This has made them think about others and given them a different perspective. They’re less self-centered since he’s been in the picture, and they’re always thinking they have someone pulling for them from behind the scenes.”
Thayil said that the team members keep in touch with Justice through email, text, and phone calls, especially around holidays and Justice’s birthday.
“It’s a good thing for them to do to think beyond themselves,” Thayil said.
Valentine Monrose-Clement, junior business administration major and midfielder from Upper Marlbro, Md., said he hears from Justice weekly.
“Seeing him come to the games has helped us as a team; it gave us someone to play for,” Monrose-Clement said. “It’s nice to be able to show him that there are people who care.”
Robel Desta, center for the soccer team and sophomore biology major from Silver Spring, Md., said that seeing Justice gives the team courage.
“You see a pure soul when you look at him,” Desta said. “The world has good and evil, but you only see the good in him. He’s an honest kid; we’re grateful to be a part of his life.”
Desta said that it’s given the team members responsibility when they know that there is a younger kid looking up to them.
Monrose-Clement said that he looks forward to next season and working with Justice.
“He teaches you to appreciate the little things; he doesn’t dwell on his circumstances. We’ve seen how it’s helped us progress as a team,” Monrose-Clement said. “We recommend other teams on campus or in the area to get involved; it makes a huge impact.”