Mesa Community College [MCC] women’s basketball team has been helping a young girl to have happiness during her ongoing fight against cancer.
Lyla Boni, 4, is fighting to overcome leukemia cancer by getting treatment near the MCC campus. With a big passion towards basketball Friends of Jaclyn Foundation connected Boni with the Lady Thunderbirds basketball team.
Boni was having to travel for each treatment at Banner Desert Hospital and it was taxing on her. This is why Friends of Jaclyn made a point to get her to an environment she loves with basketball.
The team held an initial event for Boni in which she was able to have a signing day and sign a contract in which the entire team got to be there with her and cheer her on.
Coach Kori Stephenson says that’s just where it started and continues to do what they can for Boni.
“We continue to send videos, the girls send videos, ….. and when she comes down here once a month you know she’ll pop into practice,” says Stephenson.
Friends of Jaclyn organization is a non-profit charity where they attempt to get pediatric cancer patients in contact with sports teams. By doing this the cancer patient is able have a bit of distraction from their current trial.
It started in 2005 when a young girl with the name Jaclyn Murphy who at nine-years-old was diagnosed with brain cancer. The Northwestern college lacrosse team found out about Jaclyn and invited her to be involved with the team.
Seeing how this event lifted the spirits of Jaclyn her father was determined to create the same opportunity for others in similar situation to Jaclyn. That is when the Friends of Jaclyn organization was started.
“Our mission is to improve the quality of life for children with pediatric brain tumors and other childhood cancers while spreading awareness,” said Erin Perkins, executive director of Friends of Jaclyn Organization.
“In pairing the children with the teams we hope to provide additional love and support and friendship and just give them something to look forward to while they are going through treatment or awaiting treatment,” said Perkins.
The team also gets a great benefit from adopting these ill children as a part of their team. They often times dedicate games or different events to honor the child.
This can give the team something to play for or helps realize that life is bigger than basketball. It can also affect individuals and make a choice to further dedicate to serving others.
The Friends of Jaclyn Organization also helps with the family of the child.
“We have safe on the sidelines program and that program is for the siblings of the children so they have places where they can feel a part of and special because often times, they get intentionally neglected because the family is so focused on taking care of a sick child siblings’ sort of go by the wayside,” said Perkins.
An interesting coincidence of having Lyla paired with MCC basketball is a Native American connection. The team has five Native Americans on the team and just made it feel even more appropriate that Lyla ended up at Mesa.
Coach Stephenson said she would love to look for more opportunities moving forward to do similar programs and events.