September 29, 2013 – A crowd totaling over 200 people made their way to the Walkway over the Hudson for the second Annual Angel Walk honoring the relationship with children who have pediatric brain tumors. Registration began at 9 a.m. and ended at 11 a.m. Activities like face painting and balloon animals were provided during the waiting period. Prior to the start of the walk, a few took the stage to speak to supporters and the singing of the star spangled banner followed.
At approximately 11:15 a.m., the supporters who have adopted a child to their sports team through Vassar, Marist College, as well as other schools and individuals who have taken a personal interest in these children started to stroll down the walkway following the lead of the piper.
Along the walkway rails there are 84 paper-made doves on opposite sides with the names of those children who have passed due to their condition and were members of the Friends of Jaclyn foundation dating back 2007.
The idea of death is something that the foundation and team members try to avoid when in contact with these children by distracting them with various activities that are geared towards the personal enjoyment of the child. Death is something that can’t be avoided but should not be dwelled on.
This is why, according to Jaclyn Murphy that the importance of the walk is to “Remember and honor the children who have earned their wings. It is devastating for parents to lose their child.”
In 2004, 9-year-old Jaclyn Murphy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. While in the hospital, Murphy was inspired by a photo of a woman celebrating her team’s championship in lacrosse. This made Murphy feel good because she loved to play the sport and hoped to again once she was well.
Friends of the Murphy family told the Northwestern University’s Women’s Lacrosse team and the coach about her story and asked if there is anything that could be done for Jaclyn. In 2005, they adopted Jaclyn as their honorary team member. Jaclyn’s spirit inspired the team to play selflessly as they achieved a undefeated season winning their first NCAA championship in 64 years.
Because of this positive experience as an honorary team member, Jaclyn as well as her parents felt the need to give other children this same experience. The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation (FoJ) is a non-profit organization that was started to improve the morale of children with pediatric brain tumors as well as family members who are affected by pairing them high school and college sports teams across the country.
Jaclyn Murphy says that “Friends of Jaclyn will be global. There are children with pediatric brain tumors that live all over the world. We communicate with families in other countries and discuss treatments, protocols, and chemotherapy. When they hear about Friends of Jaclyn and another team adopting, they share it with their child who comes out of their room with their life changed.”
Among those walking on the bridge was the Marist College football team who adopted 9-year-old Daniel Ferretti. Ferretti doesn’t have a pediatric brain tumor but has a sibling who does. “Making sure that Daniel is having fun is what is most important,” said Senior Quarterback Chuckie Looney. “it must be very tough for him because in his eyes he is being neglected because the extra attention that his sibling is receiving due to the tumor. We are glad to have him as a member of our team and are here for his benefit.”
“The Foundation has been a great opportunity for our program to do good in the community and hopefully our relationship with Daniel continues to grow over time,” said Joe Candarelli, senior assistant to the tight ends coach Pete Mahoney.
The walk ended as participants reached the middle of the pedestrian bridge. A few stories are shared and Denis Murphy signals the conclusion by releasing doves into the sky who took flight wandering away from the bridge. Participants began to wander in differing directions as the doves where some walked back to the starting point, while others continued in the same direction that the walk was on.
With this being the second of what hopes to be many more Angel Walks, Jaclyn would like to make it known that one of the most important values that she has learned from the foundation is “perspective on life. Our motto is to live in the moment, play in the moment.” She also acknowledges the difficulty in doing so by saying “try it, it’s not as easy as you may think.”