The Newest Member of the Team

Lacrosse players take courageous 7-year-old under their wing and make him an honorary Jumbo

Jacob and Jumbo teammates

Jacob Beranger, a 7-year-old from Woburn, Mass., found himself in an unusual position Friday afternoon: he was drafted by the Tufts men’s lacrosse team.

Jacob and the Jumbos connected through Team IMPACT (Inspire, Motivate and Play Against Challenges Together), which seeks to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses through team-based support networks. Team IMPACT was founded and funded by a group of friends and colleagues, many of whom went to college together at Tufts, played sports in college and have had business dealings with each other.

The Tufts laxmen picked Jacob up from school on Friday and headed to the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center, where he was greeted with balloons and banners welcoming him to Tufts. After a press conference, the players escorted Jacob to the locker room, where he was given a team jersey with his name on it and an official locker with a name plate. A pizza party followed.

Jacob and the team were already friends before he was drafted. Players took him out for Halloween, and have had him over to campus for homework help, video games in the film room and captain’s practice, and to simply hang out with the guys. (Check out some of the pictures on his Facebook page.)

Three days after his third birthday, Jacob was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer. He had a large tumor in his abdomen and a second tumor in his chest, and shortly afterwards he underwent many rounds of chemotherapy. Jacob went through a 16-hour surgery to remove both the tumors. He still needed a bone marrow transplant, and doctors wiped out his immune system to make that possible. But his body started to shut down, and doctors induced a coma. After two months in the coma, his body had healed, but he had to relearn basic functions such as eating, sitting up, holding his head up on his own and walking. Doctors sent him home with a walker, but after only one day he ditched the walker and began walking on his own.

Jacob is still in remission, but undergoes scans such as MRIs every three months to make sure he is healthy, and has an immunoglobulin G transfusion every six weeks to keep his immune system strong. He went to school for the first time this fall, when he started first grade.

According to Jacob’s mom, Joanne, he loves school and making new friends. But because he has been isolated as a result of his illness, he is only beginning to connect socially with kids his own age, she says. As a member of the Tufts men’s lacrosse team, he and his family will be given the support they need to negotiate his illness.

“This is one tough kid,” says men’s lacrosse coach Mike Daly, A95. “We are so happy, humbled and grateful to be a part of Jacob’s life through Team IMPACT.”

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