PRINCETON, N.J. (9/19/13) – The Princeton men’s soccer team adopted Derek last week as part of the team's involvement with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation.
The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation (FOJ) was created to improve the quality of life for children suffering from pediatric brain tumors. FOJ pairs a child with a college team so that the child can be involved with the team as much as possible as an honorary member of the team.
Nine-year-old Derek is a huge soccer fan. He has played soccer since pre-K and recently joined a travel soccer team.
"We heard about the other Princeton teams that have already been a part of the Friends of Jaclyn Program, so when we were presented with the opportunity to adopt a New Jersey child who lives and breathes soccer, the decision was instantaneous,” senior Brady Valashinas said. “There was no other option than to let this inspiring young man, Derek, onto our team."
In February of 2011, Derek's pupil was not constricting properly. At first he was diagnosed with Adie’s Pupil but his conditioned worsened. His family was then told Derek had third nerve palsy, however his conditioned rapidly deteriorated. In August 2012, Derek had strabismus surgery to re-align his pupil but after surgery his eye began to close. After finding a neuro-opthamologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, they received life-changing results. It was confirmed that Derek had a brain tumor.
Derek's tumor is located in the cavernous sinus and is displacing his carotid artery, and pressuring his third cranial nerve, which has caused complete ptosis of his eye.
CHOP has worked diligently to try to shrink the tumor several ways, due to the major risks of biopsy because of the location of the tumor. Five months of chemotherapy did not shrink the tumor. Finding a surgeon experienced in this area has not an easy task with the family, which includes 11-year-old Devin, who suffers from Asperger’s, and a 6-year-old Kyla. His family has found a surgeon in D.C., they are comfortable with and are in the process of scheduling the procedure.
“We first met Derek and his family after our practice on Wednesday, September 11,” Valashinas said. “As anyone would be in front of a group of 30 strangers, he was a little shy and timid, but once he was given a ball to run around with, he became much more comfortable and carefree.”
“This past weekend, he and his family were able to make our first home game of the season against Seton Hall. After two disappointing losses, Derek's presence on the bench led us to our first victory. He was right in on the action as we cheered for our team from the sideline, while also commenting on our team's play and possession. Having him at our game, and hopefully many more in the future, brought an added layer of motivation to our team in order to get the result we wanted, both on and off the field.”
Other Princeton teams that participate(d) in FOJ include the field hockey team and their adopted sister Carmela Loschi, women’s volleyball adopting Molly McEnroe and men’s basketball adopting Christian Regulski in 2010. Christian unfortunately passed away in 2011 at age 11.
About The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation
Friends of Jaclyn is a 501 (c) (3) not for profit organization. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for children and their families who are battling pediatric brain tumors and to raise awareness about this disease.
FOJ pairs up (matches) children and their families battling pediatric brain tumors with college and high school sports teams. The teams give these children love, support and friendship as they battle this insidious disease.
We celebrate each day by creating lasting relationships between student athletes and the children and their families, which greatly improve the quality of life for children with brain tumors, and those who support them.
You may make donations to the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation on-line at https://www.stayclassy.org/checkout/donation?eid=22490