Oct. 16, 2008
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt Commodore athletes take pride in their community service and activism. Not surprisingly, the VU lacrosse team decided to get involved as a group this fall, recently adopting a local child suffering from the consequences of a malignant brain tumor.
Doctors diagnosed Makenzie Matthews of Mt. Juliet, Tenn., with a brain tumor in September, after her family sought treatment for what they thought were migraine headaches. Matthews underwent surgery last month to remove the malignant tumor, and is now undergoing radiation treatments.
The plight of this youngster has prompted VU lax coach Cathy Swezey and her Commodores to reach out to the Matthews Family by sponsoring them through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation*, a charitable organization committed to raising public awareness and providing family support to children suffering with pediatric brain tumors.
"We've been very interested in what they're (FOJ) doing," said Swezey. "You never want to see a child in your area be diagnosed with a brain tumor, but we've been presented with this opportunity to help."
The `Dores, thus far, have purchased blue bracelets printed with Makenzie's motto "Go. Fight. Win." - which the family has adopted during this difficult time - in her honor. They've provided the family with VU lacrosse gear, and plan to send autographed items from various Commodore teams.
Swezey also hopes to get Makenzie and her siblings, a twin sister Madison and younger brother Justin, out to some of their games. Most importantly, the team hopes to establish a relationship with Makenzie and her family to provide a positive outlet during this difficult time.
"The players are so excited," Swezey remarked about her team. "Everyone's sharing ideas, and things that they want to do for Makenzie. They're really inspired by her and her strength, and they look forward to making a difference for her."
The team receives constant updates about their newest member on Makenzie's CarePage - first time users will have to create a username and password to navigate the site. Stoner Creek Elementary School also keeps track of Makenzie, who is a third-grader at the school, through its blog.
"I'm excited that we're doing this," added Swezey, "and hopefully we can make even the smallest difference for Makenzie and her family."
Note: Friends and family have established a fund at Wilson Bank & Trust to help with Makenzie's sudden medical expenses. Donations can be made on her behalf by making out a check to the "Makenzie Matthews Benefit Fund" and sent to the following address:
Wilson Bank & Trust
1476 North Mt. Juliet Road
Mt. Juliet, TN 37122
* According to the FOJ Web site, Jaclyn Murphy, an 11-year-old, who was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumor, in March 2004, inspired the formation of the foundation. Numerous collegiate teams throughout the country have adopted children through the FOJ. To learn more about this organization, click here.