The Indiana Wesleyan University women’s softball team has adopted a 7-year-old Marion girl who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in March 2007.
The team learned of Addyson Brankle through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to improve the quality of life for children with brain tumors by matching the child with college or high school sports teams.
Addyson, a first-grader at Converse Elementary School, has been in remission since September 2008. She lives near Jalapa with her mother, Melissa, and three older siblings.
"We got involved after I received an email from Friends of Jaclyn, asking if we would be interested in sponsoring a Grant County child who was signed up for the program," said Sue Bowman, coach of the women’s softball team.
"The girls on the team love to do community service and be involved with people, so I sent for more information immediately. We all agreed this was something we wanted to do," Bowman said.
The Brankle family has been on campus twice: once for dinner with the softball team and the second time to attend an IWU women’s basketball team. The IWU Admissions Office gave the children and their mother IWU shirts.
"Our commitment to Addyson and her family really is whatever we want to make of it," Bowman said. "Mostly, we just want to be there to make her feel special. And I want the girls on the team to have the experience of working with someone who is struggling."
The team will keep in contact with the family by sending them emails and cards and by inviting them to campus for meals and athletic events.
"Mostly, though, we will pray for the family" Bowman said.
Bowman said the team especially wants to be sensitive to the needs of the entire family, and not just to Addyson. "There always is a concern that other children not get overlooked when there is a sick child in the family," she said.
Melissa Brankle said she learned about Friends of Jaclyn from her boss, Dr. B. Richard Goldburg, a Marion surgeon.
"Dr. Goldburg knew about the organization and urged me to sign Addyson up for the program," Melissa Brankle said. "I really appreciate all of the encouragement he has given our family."
The Foundation’s Web site (www.friendsofjaclyn.org) calls the bond between the child, the family and a sports team a "priceless gift."
"The gift is in the relationship," the Web site says. "A child is gaining a loving support network, and the team is gaining an insight into the value of life and the power of love."
Friends of Jaclyn currently has paired about 120 children with collegiate and high school teams in 17 sports. The program is specifically for children with brain tumors.
Abbie Forman, one of three co-captains of the IWU softball team, said she is excited about being able to help someone from the local community.
"When the team does mission trips to other countries, we probably never will get to see those people again," Forman said. "But we will be able to have continuing contact with Addyson."
Haley Church, another team co-captain, the relationship with Addyson will allow team members to keep their lives in perspective.
"She makes us appreciate how fortunate we are to be athletes, to be physically strong and active," Church said.
Addyson Brankle says of her new experience of getting acquainted with 20 big sisters, "It’s fun."