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Boy Loses Vision to Cancer, But Finds Support from a Football Team

When 12-year-old Jake Olson was told he'd need surgery that would leave him completely blind, he had just one request: he wanted to see one more football game. He got far more than he had hoped for.


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Jake Olson, a 12-year-old boy from Los Angeles, has always been an obsessive fan of his favorite football team, University of Southern California’s Trojans. But in September, he received the devastating news that before long, he’d never have the chance to watch a football game again—or anything else, for that matter.

Since age one, Jake had struggled with a cancer of the eye called retinoblastoma. His left eye had been removed while he was a baby, but since then, he’d adapted perfectly well to viewing the world through his remaining right eye. Now, he’d received word that the cancer had returned to that eye, and it would need to be removed as well, leaving Jake completely blind.

But Jake still had one month to go before the surgery that would take away his vision forever. And there was just one thing he wanted to do before he lost his sight: go to see another USC Trojans game.

When word of Jake’s wish got to Trojans coach Pete Carroll, Carroll decided to give the child even more than he’d hoped for, inviting him to hang out with the players at a football practice.

“The first thing was let’s make sure that he gets inside and gets to see everything that he wants to see,” Carroll told ABC News. “God bless him, he deserves every bit of it.”

Jake quickly bonded with the players, inspiring them with his bravery. Before long, he had almost become part of the team.

“I got to sit next to Pete Carroll on the bus, which was awesome. I got to see them practice, which was awesome,” Jake said. “I got to go into the locker room and everyone was partying. It was just awesome.”

When the fateful moment came, and Jake was admitted to surgery, he received some extra support from his favorite football player, Kris O’Dowd—who had snuck in, pretending to be Jake’s uncle.

Jake began to cry when the nurse stuck an IV needle in his arm. So “I went up and gave him a kiss on the head and just told him, ‘You’re the strongest kid I’ve ever known and keep being who you are and everything will work out,’” said O’Dowd. The athlete’s words, along with the support and love of his family, helped to ease Jake’s fears as he settled into sleep.

When Jake woke up hours later, he was comforted by the sound of his parents’ voices, and was no longer afraid of being blind.

“When I got home, I really didn’t feel sorry,” he said. “Now it’s already happened and I can move on.”

And even though Jake can no longer watch his favorite football team, he’s still their biggest fan. Less than a week after his surgery, he returned to the USC football field to pay a visit to his friends. They had done such a great job lifting his spirits before the surgery, and now, following a loss to the Stanford team, it was Jake’s turn to help them feel better.

“Guys, you lost, but we’ll get them next year and the year after that and year after that all right!” he told them. And he’ll be in the bleachers cheering them on, every single year.

Filed under: General Interest, Heroes,

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