Beyond the Uniform

Written by: Nathan Flom

Student athletes are expected to maintain perfect standing in their classes, perform at a world-class level in their sporting environment and create long-lasting relationships.

Most University of North Florida athletes relish this challenge and some even go above and beyond these expectations. They show a side to the human condition that makes you realize that these athletes are human beings with feelings and aren’t just on campus here to make the University money through ticket sales.

The UNF Softball Team has exposed a side to athletes that is rarely seen in today’s landscape of collegiate athletics which is riddled by steroids, corruption and scandal throughout the local and national media outlets.

They joined into a partnership with a foundation, Friends of Jaclyn; this is a non-profit, charitable organization that improves the quality of life for children with pediatric brain tumors and their families.

FOJ matches a child in need of love, support and friendship with a college or high school sports team based on geographic basis. Through a due diligence process, the foundation screens for the best match based on the child and family’s needs and the team, coach and athletic director’s commitment to the foundation’s goals.

The Osprey ladies adopted a 4-year-old girl who had stage 4 Ependymoblastoma, named Megan Parker who attends Fleming Island Elementary where she is in preschool. This is a highly malignant brain tumor of childhood and is usually seen in the very young child or infant. It is rare among brain tumors in general, but these brain tumors are the second most common malignancy in the childhood age group, second only to leukemia.

“She has the best personality, and spirit of any person that I have ever met. Every time that I have seen her she has had the biggest smile on her face, and she’s always so happy,” said Osprey Catcher/Outfielder Mariah Reynolds.

Megan has become like a sister to the athletes on the team and gives them the inspiration to tackle whatever obstacle it may be whether it is on the diamond or in the everyday trials in the life of a college student. This bond between the athletes took Megan and her family to Disney over the summer where she was allowed to fulfill all of her childhood inhibitions after being cleared of cancer in April.

Although she has endured a lot of pain and suffering for such young person, Megan and her family have risen above her illness to help create a bond that transcends the bounds of popularity, wealth and even sport. This relationship has not only created a bond between the team and her family but it has created a new found unity between the athletes on team.

The teams’ involvement in this girl’s life really begs you to ask the question, “Does it really matter whose name is on the back of the jersey?” The question that all athletes should be able to answer is do I represent myself and image of the University to the best of my ability through my actions on and off the field. Through the actions of a few athletes such as the softball team at UNF, they are creating a positive image that everyone should strive for whether they are an athlete or not.

“Live in the moment… Play in the moment”-FOJ Motto

If you would like to learn more about Friends of Jaclyn Foundation you can go to their website below

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