COLUMBUS, Ohio – On Saturday January 2, 2010 , Ohio Dominican University became the first university partner in Central Ohio to join the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation Adopt-A-Child Program.
The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation is a non-profit, charitable organization that improves the quality of life for children with pediatric brain tumors and their families. The program pairs children with pediatric brain tumors with a college or high school athletic team based on geographic proximity so the child can be involved with the team as much as possible. The child is "adopted" by the team and welcome at all events and functions. The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation was inspired by Jaclyn Murphy who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2004 when she was 9 years old. In 2005, through a mutual friend, the Northwestern University Women's Lacrosse team adopted Jaclyn as an honorary team member. Upon realizing the impact this relationship had on Jaclyn's recovery, the Murphy's began to find other teams to adopt children they knew with pediatric brain tumors.
Ohio Dominican's men's basketball team introduced 9 year-old Ryan Hardy (Lewis Center, Ohio) who is battling Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma (JPA) and Leukemia. Ryan was diagnosed with JPA, a rare brain tumor, when he was two years old. He has had chemotherapy treatments and three surgeries since that time. On December 23, 2008 , Ryan was diagnosed with Leukemia.
The Panther softball team adopted Reagyn Semler of London, Ohio. At the age of five, Reagyn was diagnosed with a brain tumor known as brain stem glioma, category 1. The tumor is located in the brain stem where all her motor nerves function and cannot be removed by surgery; the tumor has also spread to the Thalmus area.
Both Ryan and Reagyn have been actively involved with their teams since December 2009 but the formal induction ceremony was held to officially welcome them to the ODU community.
The day began with a luncheon in the Bishop James A. Griffin Center for both Ryan and Reagyn and their families. Following lunch the two children, their families and both ODU team's along with members of the Panther Athletic Department, ODU community, and FOJ representatives gathered in the Community Room of Alumni Hall for an official welcome.
Kris Herman, a volunteer with Friends of Jaclyn, delivered a brief history of the FOJ program. Kris is the head softball coach at Williams College in Massachusetts. Her team became involved with the Friends of Jaclyn organization through a program called Safe on the Sidelines which adopts siblings of children affected by brain tumors. Danny Lam, who also volunteers with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation gave a powerful account of how the relationship between FOJ and the Temple University Women's Lacrosse team provided love, support, and friendship to his daughter Devon and their family. Although his daughter lost her battle a year ago, he continues to be a strong advocate for the FOJ Foundation.
Ohio Dominican's Head Coaches Artie Taylor and Marcella Vanlandingham discussed how they got involved with the program and members of both the basketball and softball teams gave their vantage point of the impact Ryan and Reagyn have already had on their teams. Those gathered also heard from Reagyn and Ryan's moms who told the stories of their families journey that lead them to this day. They each shared the heart-warming accounts of the effect the Panthers have had on their children's lives and how the ODU community has welcomed them as honorary team members. Coach Vanlandingham surprised 11 year old Baylee Semler when she announced the official adoption of Reagyn's older sister through the Safe on the Sidelines program. Reagyn and Ryan then concluded the adoption by signing a "Letter of Intent". To conclude the ceremonies Ryan joined the starters for the men's basketball team for a ceremonial jump ball leading up to the Panthers game versus McKendree University .
"ODU is extremely excited and honored to be associated with a foundation such as Friends of Jaclyn. Their mission to provide love, support, and friendship to children affected by brain tumors certainly provides our student athletes with an opportunity to be involved in something bigger than themselves," said Taylor . "This was a great day to celebrate Reagyn, Ryan, and Baylee's membership as part of the ODU community. We are looking forward to these relationships growing into something special over the years to come," Added Vanlandingham.