Friends of Jaclyn Foundation
Adoption Ceremony Photo Gallery
PHILADELPHIA - At a ceremonial adoption prior to the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball game against Columbia on Friday night at The Palestra, Emily Miccarelli, a local 13-year-old who has lived with brain cancer throughout most of her childhood, officially became a member of the Quakers. The adoption was set up by the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation.
On Emily's fourth birthday, her parents, Bonnie and John Miccarelli, noticed Emily's eyes crossing. They took her to the Pediatric Eye Doctor the next day where an MRI revealed a tumor deep in her brain. Emily underwent surgery - on her mother's birthday - to remove the tumor. About a month after her initial surgery, the tumor began to grow again, meaning Emily would have to undergo chemotherapy. Emily endured 66 chemo treatments and went to the doctor every six months for an MRI to make sure the tumor was under control. But the tumor began to grow again and Emily underwent 24 more chemo treatments. However, for the past four and a half years, Emily has been in remission and is doing very well.
"She's a very, very special kid," head coach Mike McLaughlin said of Emily, who sang the national anthem on Friday. "When Emily shares her story with the girls, I think it brings things back to the reality of what life really is. On the winning and losing side we are struggling, but there are people in a lot tougher spots than we are. We are trying to win basketball games, but she has had to win the battle to live. So I think it puts it into perspective for them."
McLaughlin, a father of three, noted that his wife, Ginny, found Friends of Jaclyn (FOJ) and helped in researching the foundation. FOJ 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 with a college or high school sports team. Once the team and child have been matched, there is a ceremonial adoption and the result of this connection is a mutual respect, support, friendship and love. Each child that is "adopted" helps to spread knowledge and understanding for pediatric brain tumors.
Though the team's adoption of Emily just became official on Friday, the Quakers began their relationship with her in the fall, and Emily and her parents have attended many of Penn's games this season. During the team's longest road trip of the season thus far - a four day trip to Chicago - each member of the Quakers made sure to send Emily a postcard.
"Needless to say, Emily has been through a lot," said assistant coach Bernadette Laukaitis. "Her strength and courage have shown us how to never give up and to always keep on fighting. She is one special little girl and has truly won the hearts of everyone here at Penn.
"The girls, as well as the coaching staff, have a great friendship with her and look forward to building that relationship both today and years to come," Laukaitis added. "We are very excited to have Emily as our honorary teammate!"
Thanks to the FOJ Foundation, there are currently more than 180 children paired with collegiate and high school teams in 20 different sports. For more information on the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, click the link at the top of this release. Donations are accepted through the foundation's website.