Oct. 12, 2010
By Tyler Hall
OXFORD, Ohio - Although Max Cook and Bryon Paulazzo stick out as new names on the Miami Hockey roster, they are not the most recent additions to The Brotherhood. That honor would belong to three-and-a-half-year-old Michael Quintero, who joins the RedHawks this year as an honorary member and teammate, complete with his own locker and jersey.
Michael Quintero and his family join The Brotherhood through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, an organization that pairs children with pediatric brain tumors with collegiate athletic teams. When Michael was just two years old he was diagnosed with Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma, which involves a type of tumor that occurs in children slightly older than Michael and are rated in terms of how aggressive they are. Tumors with Grades 1 and 2 are considered benign while tumors with Grades 3 and 4 are malignant. Fortunately, Michael has a Grade 1 Glioma, which means that it is non-cancerous and is slow growing.
Michael and his family recently moved to Oxford from Utah and began the process of joining the RedHawks while his dad, Mark, will also direct the pep band at Miami hockey games. The Quintero family got the news that they would be partnering with Miami's Hockey Team less than a month ago, and Michael got his first chance to meet with the team two weeks ago in the locker room where he, and his one-year-old brother, Alex, both received jerseys, hats and sticks from members of the team. He followed that up by getting a great look at what Miami Hockey is all about as he watched the Red and White beat up Waterloo 6-0 in their exhibition game Sunday.
"I think it's an honor to be associated with Michael and his family. Hopefully we can be some kind of support to them and it's something that our team wants to be involved with and wants to help," head coach Enrico Blasi said. "So much in life we take for granted and I think Michael's an example of not doing that."
The Brotherhood did not simply stop with a meet and greet and a free ticket to the game though, as this connection goes much deeper. In addition to the gear he received upon meeting the team, Michael was given a locker right next to junior defenseman Matt Tomassoni and a No. 28 jersey that says Michael on the back, which will hang in the locker room all season. Although nothing is set in stone as to how and what Michael will be involved in with the team throughout the year, this relationship is not to be looked at as a one year ordeal. The RedHawks are linked to Michael indefinitely. They will get to watch him grow and develop as a person throughout his life as long as he remains in Oxford.
The special bond has a big impact on both the Quintero family and the Miami Hockey team. Michael's battle with his tumor and seeing the daily struggles he goes through in life will provide the team with some motivation for the upcoming season. The players can look at how the Quintero family has had to see Michael go through multiple surgeries and treatments and spend countless hours in the hospital and realize how precious life really is.
"The players just kind of see life from a different perspective," said strength and conditioning coach Matt Cady, who is the contact person with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation. "A bad day for us is a bad grade on an exam or your shirt isn't clean. What we have really isn't all that bad so Michael serves as motivation for our players what it's like to persevere through adversity."
Similarly, the RedHawks can help Michael to stay strong and keep fighting against his tumor as he watches them work hard throughout the season. This can be mutually inspirational for both sides and ultimately lead to great things, as was seen in the smile on Michael's face when he first met the team in the locker room last Thursday, while nodding that he was happy to meet his new friends.
Live in the Moment ... Play in the Moment
The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation uses this motto and it fits perfectly for both the children and the teams involved with the program. The RedHawks in particular should take this to heart and not continuously look back at how they have ended the last two seasons with disappointment. This year is a fresh start for The Brotherhood as Oxford is a fresh start for the Quinteros.
The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation began when a nine-year-old-girl named Jaclyn Murphy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in March of 2004. The story goes that every time Jaclyn visited the hospital, her father would point to a picture of a lacrosse player on the wall and say, "This is going to be you someday." With a little stroke of luck, Jaclyn's current lacrosse coach knew the Northwestern women's lacrosse coach, and so Jaclyn began to form a relationship with the Wildcat coaches and players. Jaclyn's constant emails, phone calls, and texts from the team drew the attention of her suitemate in the hospital, and Jaclyn told her dad that they needed to get this girl a team as well. Since then the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation has partnered with some of the best known athletic universities in the country. Schools such as University of Texas, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Duke University and University of Michigan have all joined in to help young children with pediatric brain tumors.
Although many other schools are trying to get involved and become partners with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, fortunately there are not enough sick children for everyone to be involved, meaning it is a huge honor for Miami University to have the opportunity to spend time with Michael and help him in his struggle with the tumor. For now the bar has been set high as Michael stood by to watch the RedHawks' exhibition game. After watching the game Michael's first post on his Caring Bridge page stated "I love Hockey, I think it's my new favorite sport." As the RedHawks look to continue their winning ways, they also hope to keep Michael's spirits up as he continues to overcome the odds while drawing inspiration from his story.
"We're just honored to be a little part of his day and hopefully we can help him along the way and bring some excitement and joy to his day and help the family anyway we can," Blasi said. "It's quite a story and he's as strong an individual as I've ever seen in my life and he's only three and a half. It's pretty inspiring."