HOPE Week: Friends of Jaclyn

Manager Joe Girardi, pitchers David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, David Phelps and Matt Thornton; catcher Francisco Cervelli and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki surprised Jaclyn Murphy, a student at Marist College, and three young children who are participants in the Friends of Jaclyn program, Wednesday as part of the Yankees’ HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere and Excel) initiative.

Ryan Tucker, 12, and Quinn Ostergren, 4, who are cousins, and Sean Callahan, 11, were with Murphy and began their day by having lunch with the players and coaches at the Hard Rock Cafe in Manhattan.

As honorary team members in the afternoon, the Yankees held a press conference to welcome them to the team in the Yankee Stadium press conference room. The children were given their own lockers in the clubhouse and suited up in Yankees uniforms before joining their new teammates for a variety of batting practice activities. After being on the field for pregame ceremonies, the Murphy, Tucker, Ostergren and Callahan families and Friends of Jaclyn representatives were guests of the Yankees for their game against the Blue Jays.

Jaclyn Murphy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and given a 30-percent chance of survival when she was nine years old. When the Northwestern University women’s lacrosse team learned about what Jaclyn was going through and about her passion for lacrosse, the Wildcats “adopted” her as an honorary member of the team. Later that spring, Northwestern won its first national championship in school history. Girardi is a graduate of Northwestern.

“Everything that they were doing for Jaclyn impacted her health — I know that for a fact,” her father, Denis Murphy, said. “I realized I had to do that for other kids.”

Thus began Friends of Jaclyn, a foundation created to improve the quality of life of pediatric brain tumor patients by pairing them with collegiate and high school sports teams. One such child is Tucker, a diehard Yankees fan who began his battle with cancer when he was three years old. Ryan’s 4-year-old cousin, Quinn, Ostergren is also battling cancer and has already undergone two surgeries in addition to chemotherapy treatment.

“We strive to create relationships that provide love, support and friendship,” Friends of Jaclyn executive director Erin Perkins said. “These children are nothing but loved by their teammates. Being adopted, in many cases, will be their only chance to be part of a team.”

Friends of Jaclyn celebrated its 500th adoption in May. Even though his daughter has been cancer-free for nine years, Denis Murphy continues to devote all of his time to the foundation. Having witnessed what the Northwestern women’s lacrosse team did for Jaclyn during her darkest days, he believes he has discovered the best medicine of all.

“Nothing—no chemotherapy, no pill, no drug—is more powerful than love and support.”

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