For Do Something Awards Semi-Finalist Jaclyn Murphy, helping kids with brain tumors is a very personal cause. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was nine. Her struggle didn't stop Jaclyn's love of lacrosse. Therefore, her coach reached out to the Northwestern Women’s Lacrosse Team, and the team immediately showed support. The athletes texted her and sent care packages to Jaclyn during her treatment.
Inspired by experience, Jaclyn founded her own organization. Friends of Jaclyn aims to connect young people battling brain tumors with collegiate sports teams. Talk about a team of supporters! Here's what Jaclyn has to say about her project.
1. How did you feel when your first learned of the problem you are addressing?
Since I am a brain tumor survivor, I know first hand the struggles that all the children who have been diagnosed with this insidious disease. I felt that it was so important to allow other children who are battling a brain tumor the opportunity to receive the love, support, and friendship that I received. Quality of life prolongs life and since there is only a 30% survival rate, every day is a gift and being happy and having fun will give these children the happiness they deserve.
2. How do you feel about it now?
I feel that it is necessary for these children to be a part of a team where they can take their minds off of what they are going through, as they fight for their lives. I am surprised that there are so many children who have been dealt with this disease. Starting Friends of Jaclyn has opened my eyes to see how many children are faced with a similar diagnosis and that they may not survive.
3. What person or experience sticks with you from when you first started your project?
The experience would be when I was waiting to see my doctor at Sloan and a little girl asked me who I kept texting, since I was receiving many text messages from my “big sisters.” When she was called in to see her doctor, it was then that I said to my dad, “you have to get her a team, too.” My dad realized the positive effects my team had on my health and he decided that I was right and helped me to form the Friends of Jaclyn foundation.
4. Who or what is your inspiration to keep going?
My mom has been my rock, my best friend, and helped me through my decisions during my diagnosis and through life. My little sister, Taryn, who is not so little, had helped me to bring a lighter side to what I was going through and always making me laugh and supporting me throughout my journey.
5. What was the most difficult roadblock you faced when you tried to start your project or when your were growing it?
The most difficult roadblock was getting in touch with coaches and teams and trying to share my story and how it impacted my life. Also, the parents weren’t sure of what we were doing. After all, their main goal is getting their child well so when I would approach them they weren’t sure what it was all about. It was a slow process, until my story was featured in a NY times article and things exploded from there.
6. What’s been the biggest lesson through the process?
To never give up—I have learned that from having survived a brain tumor and I realized that I have a special purpose. There is no question that we need more research. I am hopeful that one of the team members of the children will find a cure, as many are premed students. In the meantime, I want the children to experience happiness, love, support, and friendship. I know first hand that quality of life prolongs life.
7. What has surprised you the most about the journey that has taken you here today?
How many children have this disease and how many children I am able to help and bring happiness to their hearts and lives.
8. What advice do you have for other young leaders who are having a tough time getting their ideas off of the ground?
Never give up on your dream. Keep working towards your goals and don’t listen to people who are negative and tell you that it can’t be done.
9. If you could have done one thing differently based on what you know now, what would it be and why?
I trusted some people thinking they really wanted to help when they really wanted the glory. It wasn’t from their hearts.
10. What’s next for your project?
Friends of Jaclyn had a house donated to my foundation. It needs so much work. Once enough money is raised, I would like to have a Friends of Jaclyn home as a respite for the children and their families. I would also like a memory garden for all the children who have passed. FOJ has had 74 children who have passed away from a brain tumor.
11. If you could have any celebrity film a PSA for your organization, who would it be and why?
I have two favorites, Taylor Swift and Beyonce. I am going to choose Beyonce because it was her songs during my initial diagnosis that lifted my spirits. I would listen to her music while at Sloan awaiting to see my doctors or when I felt alone. When I couldn’t even walk, I would picture myself dancing to her music, which was so upbeat and positive.
What Can You Do?
Learn more about all of the Do Something Awards Semi-Finalists.