On Saturday afternoon, the men’s lacrosse team welcomed its newest and youngest member to the team: Sterling Bachman.
Just eight years old, Sterling has multiple talents: He can sing and play the piano, and he is especially passionate about math. Yet while other children may share some of Sterling’s skills, his father, Bob Bachman, identified one trait unique to Sterling: his ability “to march through challenges.”
When he was 18 months old, Sterling developed a brain tumor that left him blind.
But Sterling, who lives in Ridgefield, Conn., continues to march, not phased by chemotherapy or MRIs. His mother, Cindy, says that Sterling is “a really happy guy.”
The Bachmans came to Yale on Saturday as part of the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, a non-profit organization that matches pediatric brain tumor patients with high school or college sports teams in the hope that the team will provide emotional support and friendship for the child. Moreover, depending on the health of the patient, team members might make visits to the hospital or invite their friend to the team’s respective games.
Jaclyn Murphy, after whom the program is named, was also present on Saturday with her father, Dennis; her mother, Lynda; and her sister, Taryn.
Jaclyn, 15, said the inspiration for the foundation came when she was receiving treatment for her brain tumor at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York three years ago.
As she sat in a room next to another patient, Jaclyn was receiving text messages from the Northwestern women’s lacrosse team. Jaclyn shared a mutual friend with Northwestern’s head coach, Kelly Hiller, who put the two in contact. The lacrosse team had provided her with a support system throughout her tumor treatment. Jaclyn thought of the girl next to her, turned to her father and said, “We need to get this girl a team.”
“That’s when the light bulb went off,” Dennis said.
Since then Dennis said the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation has matched 200 kids with their own team around the country in over 19 sports.
Assistant lacrosse coach Ryan Polley said Yale’s involvement in the program began when Jaclyn’s uncle, Mike Solazzo, the head lacrosse coach at Pelham High School in Pelham, N.Y., contacted him about the program, and the Bulldogs quickly signed up online.
All 39 members of the lacrosse team gathered in the Timothy Dwight South Common Room on Saturday, donning Friends of Jaclyn t-shirts, to meet Sterling, his brother, Hunter and his parents, as well as the Murphy family.
After a standing ovation by the team when Sterling entered, the players shared interesting facts about themselves with Sterling: many of the them like to fish and eat Double Stuff Oreos. Sterling shared some fun facts of his own, including that he likes to sing “There’s a Hole in the Bucket” in the car with his dad.
Then Dennis explained his family’s daily routine with Sterling to the team. Sterling’s mother, Cindy, said the team’s adoption of Sterling was a welcome respite from the “serious things” her family faces constantly.
“There’s not a lot of time to have fun,” she said. “To be in this room and feel the youthful energy is a tremendous boost for me.”
Sterling said he was very excited to meet the lacrosse team.
Dennis said the program’s benefits are reciprocal; he hopes the men’s lacrosse team takes something away from it.
“It’s all about love, support and friendship,” Dennis said. “Our motto is live in the moment, play in the moment. What you give to Sterling, he will give back to you.”
Phil Gross ’13 said he was honored that the team joined the program, while Jack Flaherty ’11 said he was “overwhelmed by how special this kid is.”
According to Polley, the Bulldogs plan to support Sterling and Hunter through phone calls and e-mails. Head coach Andy Shay assured that the team would be going above and beyond to support them.