The greatest lap run at Virginia’s 2010 Lou Onesty Invitational took place well after competition was completed. The lap wasn’t timed, nor was it a race. Done at a leisurely pace and with a large number of Virginia’s track team behind him, Jonah Terry circled Lannigan Field in a wheel chair with his hands held high. As he crossed the finish line, it wasn’t the finish that mattered. It was that he did it with teammates.
“To watch Jonah at the front of the pack on that victory lap was truly incredible,” assistant coach Michael Eskind said. “With his arms stretched above his head and a look of pure joy, it was great to know that we have been able to bring some joy into this young boy’s life. Jonah and his family have been through so much in such a short time span and it is important for our team that they know that Jonah now has lots of big brothers to look up to and to count on when he’s having a rough day. He has already been a tremendous inspiration for our team.”
Born in Russia and now eight-years old, Terry was adopted by his parents five years ago before being diagnosed with brain cancer in October of 2008. Since then, he has gone through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy with a stem cell transplant.
On Saturday, April 10, following Virginia’s annual Lou Onesty Invitational, the program held its official adoption ceremony for Terry – a child affiliated with the Friends of Jaclyn Organization. Following the conclusion of the meet, the team took Terry for a victory lap around the track before welcoming him into Wahoo Nation by giving him his uniform at a gathering in University Hall.
"The opportunity to adopt Jonah was never seen as a choice for our team, it was never a question of whether or not to do it,” senior distance runner Trey Miller said. “This team is a remarkable group of men. I have been so impressed with how they have loved Jonah when he has been around the team. His presence is compelling and his story is powerful. The time spent with Jonah is a blessing to my teammates and myself. I consider myself fortunate to be a part of this program and to have a friendship with Jonah."
The Friends of Jaclyn (FOJ) organization was founded in 2004 by Denis Murphy after his daughter, Jaclyn, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Jaclyn was nine at the time of her diagnosis and was adopted by the Northwestern women's lacrosse team. Since then, the program has worked to provide young children with pediatric brain tumors a chance to be a part of a collegiate athletic team.
FOJ focuses on the relationships between the children, their families and the athletic teams, and aims to be a source of strength and courage for young patients. There are currently over 230 children involved with over 20 different varsity athletic teams around the nation.
“We want to thank Friends of Jaclyn for putting us together [with UVa],” Terry said in his blog. “They are a very special group of people that make it possible for kids like me to get ‘adopted’ by teams like UVa Track and Field. It sure makes you feel special to have people do so much to make you feel like a part of a TEAM and they are great. If it wasn’t for them, I would not be on a team like I am. Thank you!!”
“Jonah certainly is a great benefit to our team,” senior shot putter Eric Pickle said. “But then again, I truly believe everyone could benefit from being involved with such an enthusiastic and inspiring person as Jonah. I think as a team, as athletes and just as human beings, we should feel blessed and grateful for the lives we have knowing what Jonah has endured. And because of that, we can inspire and be inspired by amazing people like Jonah.
“I am in awe of his perseverance, his selflessness and his positive attitude in the face of adversity. While I hope in every way possible Jonah can benefit from having me as his ‘big brother’, I also hope that Jonah and others know how much we benefit from Jonah and his family sharing the joys and struggles of their lives with us. Reading his story is so very touching, but being able to be involved personally with Jonah is such a great blessing.”