Jaclyn Murphy survived childhood cancer. Now she’s helping kids in treatment connect with sports leagues

Jaclyn Murphy is a 26-year-old childhood cancer survivor and the founder of the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation

As a kid, Murphy loved sports and joined a local lacrosse team. But soon after, on Mar. 26, 2004, doctors found a mass the size of a golf ball in her brain. She was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumor, at just nine years old. She subsequently lost 30% of her body weight, had permanent hearing loss and had to re-learn to walk. Murphy had to quit the lacrosse team. But when her coach found out, he decided to do something.

“He had a contact at Northwestern University and a couple of weeks later, I get a care package from this team,” Murphy told In The Know. “There was a ball signed by the team, some sweatbands, a T-shirt and then each girl wrote me a personal note.” 

She quickly formed a bond and relationship with the women’s lacrosse team. The Northwestern athletes would text and check in on her whenever she had doctor’s appointments. Murphy would reach out when they had game days. 

“To have these girls support me in a time of need that I needed the most — it was so meaningful to me,” she said. 

One day at the hospital, another little girl in treatment asked who texted her so much. The texts came from Murphy’s “Northwestern big sisters.” At that moment, Murphy knew she had to connect other kids to athletes.

“Friends of Jaclyn Foundation is a nonprofit organization,” Murphy explained. “What we do is we pair children battling pediatric cancers with sports teams. Those teams become older brothers and sisters to that child and the family. It’s their support system. It’s not a one-season kind of a thing. They’re part of it for life.” 

The experience doesn’t just enrich the spirits of the children battling cancer, it actually improves their health. 

“We’ve seen kids go from doctors saying they’re not going to be able to walk, they’re not going to be able to talk to them interacting with their team and they can walk, they can talk,” she said. 

Murphy’s goal is to see how many children and teams she can connect with each other.

“Once I see that child smile and they don’t want to leave the field or the court or the room that just makes my day,” Murphy remarked. “I want to help as many kids as I can, the possibilities are endless.” 

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