Sunday, December 6, 2009

Touched by Jake Olson

As I see my son learn to adapt to his situation with Autism and how everyday is a new and challenging experience for him I can't help but notice an inner strength and courage he shows and I am so touched and inspired. My son makes me feel very proud for all he accomplishes and the approach and dedication he shows in his life. When I was trying to understand his situation and feelings he may be experiencing I've tried to draw inspiration from others to try and gain insight in learning about autism or other cases of childhood illness and dealing with the challenges posed. I have been touched by others and have come across a recent story of a young boy by the name of Jake Olson who is 12 years old and has experienced so much in his young life it will make you feel very inspired by his courage and his boyish charm and it will make you feel very sad that he has experienced so much pain and suffering. The one thing I will take out of learning of Jake's story is that he is a kid just like any other kid and though his life is taking such a dramatic turn he still has a love of his college football team, USC and he is a truly amazing fan and truly an amazing kid.

I learned of Jake Olson's story on an AOL headline which peaked my curiosity as it showed a picture of a young boy who looked like any other boy in America but his story is like no other. In the headline it indicates that Jake has one final request and I felt an initial sadness when I saw that and was curious so I decided to click in on the story and when I did I was immediately drawn to his story which also included a video. I decided to view the video and boy was I touched by his story. I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I saw the video and read his story. You see Jake had been born as a twin with a sister who by all means is healthy but poor Jake had a rare form of cancer that was diagnosed at a very young age that affected his eyes and his vision. When Jake was a young toddler he had to have one of his eyes removed due to the cancer and had only sight from his other eye. He had numerous surgeries subsequent to losing his first eye and they were to his parents and sister's delight successful. As his cancer came back he was in need of surgery again and the problem was that this surgery was not successful and their was nothing else the doctors could do to save his remaining eye.

After meeting with the doctors the family realized Jake would require another surgery that would require removal of his remaining eye and Jake said there was one more thing he wanted to experience with his last precious moments of having his eyesight. Jake and his family are very loyal USC college football fans and Jake always enjoyed going to some of their games and cheering them on with his dad. He told his mom that the one last request he would like aside from memorizing his family's faces was to see a USC football game and his mom had reached out to see if this could happen. When USC learned of Jake Olson and his story they were so touched and inspired that they wanted to make Jake's experience one he would never forget so they planned a day especially for him where he would be given the opportunity to meet with all the players and coaching staff during a practice session and get to talk with his favorite player, Kristofer O' Dowd. It was very special for Jake and his family and for the big day of the game. Jake and his family were given the best seats in the stadium to get to see USC football. The players played to win the game for Jake and give him the opportunity to be a part of the team's first huddle of the game where Jake got to give his encouraging words and he really had an emotional effect on all the guys as they played in his honor.

It was such a compelling story as the team rallied around Jake and won the game for him and gave him his request and they had a special request of Jake that he would be around to still cheer his team on with his family. I was very touched by this and felt very proud of Jake, his family and USC football. After Jake's surgery he no longer had sight and had to learn to now adapt to his new situation and was very courageous and had many supporters including the USC football team. They had managed to visit Jake after the surgery and his favorite player was at the hospital with Jake's family and was expressing his and the team's support and were looking forward to his next visit at their practice.

Jake has written a book about his experience before he lost total sight and is planning on writing another book now without vision and it will be in braille also. I have been touched by others in reading their stories but Jake's story really stands out and I admire his courage as well as his family's and the kindness extended by the USC football team. It is such a touching story and I wish Jake all the best in his life and a chance to live out all his dreams. I wish his family the strength and courage to be their for their wonderful son and I have become a big fan of USC football because of their true character and support of their number 1 fan Jake Olson.

I will tell my son of this truly brave kid and I'm sure he will be inspired by his story as I was.
When Matty found out about Jake he felt very sad and he expressed his feelings and wanted to write a letter to him which he will first write as his next blog post and the title will be "A Letter to Jake Olson".

Edward D. Iannielli III
Helped by Matty Iannielli (my son)

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Please feel free to read my writings and leave a kind message or suggestion. Thank you. Emily