Jacob, 15, of Pelham, AL was diagnosed with T-Cell Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia on February 8, 2011. Jacob has one love that has not changed: his love for soccer. Jacob has kept himself busy during treatments by constantly keeping active and never letting go of his dream of playing soccer again. After missing his Spring soccer season in 2011 due to treatments, Jacob has returned to playing. After a discussion with his pediatric surgeon Jacob was able to have his medical port relocated from its normal location to a place that would allow him to stay active and keep up with his friends. As Jacob got closer to making his decision on what his wish was going to be, he knew that it was going to involve his love for soccer and potentially his favorite player, Landon Donovan. Make-A-Wish® Alabama and Jacob’s parents worked together to make the wish travel arrangements a surprise for Jacob until the revealing at a local Homewood business, Big #1 Motorsports. At Big #1 Motorsports, Jacob and his siblings found out that in less than one month they were going to head to Los Angeles to meet the LA Galaxy soccer team.
Jacob was treated to a personal video from the LA Galaxy squad, with special shout-outs from Landon Donovan and LA Galaxy Manager, Bruce Arena, where they personally invited him to join the Galaxy for an upcoming exhibition match in Los Angeles. He also received signed merchandise from the team, including a soccer ball, a hat and a hand-signed Galaxy jersey from Donovan.
Then, following his last chemotherapy session, Jacob boarded a Birmingham plane and set his goals on the LA Galaxy.
Once in Los Angeles, Jacob began to practice with the team. However, his favorite player, Donovan, was not there to greet him in person as he was trying out for the USA World Cup team. However, Donovan did leave a message for Jacob in another personalized video. “Welcome, it’s great to have you! Keep going, buddy,” Donovan said. After the overwhelming welcome and his first practice with the team, the LA Galaxy signed Jacob to a one-day contract to be a part of the team. He not only attended the team’s game the following evening, but led the LA Galaxy team on the field. At the game against FC Dallas, the LA Galaxy came away with the win. The team’s forward, Robbie Keane, referred to Jacob as the team’s “good luck charm.” Jacob’s father, Ted, was blown away by the number of people that were at the game cheering for and encouraging his son. Keane said that he told the team in the huddle before the game that Jacob made him realize “just how lucky we are.”
Jacob’s family was surprised by the team signing their son to the one-day contract and by the overwhelming support Jacob received from the Galaxy fans. KCAL9 Reporter, Kristine Leahy, said it best in her report, saying:
“For one day [Jacob] got to forget about all of the struggles, while just being one of the guys with his teammates on the Galaxy.”
Jacob’s Galaxy teammate, Keane, was thankful for the experience and influenced to play the game with the passion that Jacob brought to the team. When describing their experience in Los Angeles, Jacob’s mother, Kathryn, expressed the joy of knowing her son was taking in every minute of the experience.
“I have not seen Jake light up with that much joy in the last three and a half years, that weight was lifted off of him and he was a child again,” she said.
Jacob wore a brand new pair of cleats during the game left behind by Donovan as a gift.
As with every wish…Jacob’s wish was unique. It is what Make-A-Wish Alabama takes pride in; Finding that one true, heartfelt wish that will give any wish kid a new, fresh outlook on life. During our first year in operation as a new chapter in 2013, Make-A-Wish Alabama granted 130 wishes. This year, Make-A-Wish Alabama is on course to grant at least 140 wishes.