Meet the Newest Buckeye: Eli Boda
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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The newest member of the Ohio State women’s swimming and diving family stopped by McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion on Wednesday to bond with a host of his Buckeye sisters. Eli Boda, a 13-year old from Columbus, Ohio, has been adopted by the team through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation (FOJ), a non-profit, charitable organization formed in 2005 that aims to improve the quality of life for children with pediatric brain tumors and their families.
On May 19, 2014, Eli was diagnosed with a mass on his brain after a seizure caused him to unexpectedly collapse. Following a surgery, the mass was officially diagnosed as high-grade glioma, which is a type of brain tumor rarely found in children. Since then, a slew of radiation and chemotherapy has followed, taking a toll on both Eli and his loved ones.
Now, Eli has an extended family in the Buckeyes to lean on for support during challenging times.
“I told him this morning, ‘you are going to meet your new sisters today,’” Pearl Wagner, Eli’s mother, shared with the team during their bonding session with Eli. “I know he is definitely excited to be here and to get to know all of you. I’m equally as excited. I’m the type of person who will snatch you all up and you’ll become my daughters.”
Forming a tight-knit relationship with Eli and his family is exactly what the Buckeyes aspire to achieve. Brought to the team’s attention by junior Erin Dunseith, the mission of FOJ is one that struck and cord with the collective group and inspired them to get involved.
“It attracted us because it was an opportunity to put ourselves aside and do something for somebody else,” Dunseith said. “All of us have experienced so much support throughout our lives from the likes of our family, coaches and friends, and this was a chance for us to extend that support to a family and child who need it.
“Most of us cannot even imagine what it is like to be going through something like this, but we know when a teammate is struggling the greatest thing you can do is support and encourage them to keep going,” Dunseith continued. “Now that Eli and his family are a part of our team, unconditional support is exactly what we’ll give them.”
Denis Murphy, the founder of FOJ, joined the Buckeyes, Eli and Pearl during their introduction and shared his inspiration for starting the organization.
In 2004, his own daughter, Jaclyn, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. As she valiantly fought the disease, the Northwestern women’s lacrosse team adopted Jaclyn as an honorary team member. Since then, Murphy has led the charge to pair children in similar circumstances with college and high school athletic teams.
“There is no drug as powerful as love, support and friendship and that is what you guys can provide,” Murphy explained to the team.
Leading the way for the Buckeyes, Dunseith has organized and planned each step of the process to adopt Eli and his family through FOJ.
“When I brought it up to the team there was absolutely no hesitation. The team and coaches were 100 percent on board,” Dunseith said. “I felt really passionately we should do this and from everyone's response I knew they felt the same way.
“Our coach, Bill Dorenkott, not only coaches us to become the best athletes we can be in the pool but also to be the best people we can be. He really emphasizes the importance of the 'human qualities' we gain from swimming, and I really think those great qualities came through when the team was presented with this opportunity.”
The Buckeyes are already busy making plans for the next step of their journey with Eli. If the team’s first interaction with him was any indication, the road ahead should be filled with plenty of excitement, laughter and friendship.
“I woke up this morning at 6:30 and have never been so excited to be awake that early – except for practice, of course,” Dunseith said. “The whole time Pearl and Eli were here they were all smiles and laughing, which really showed their strength.
“I admired Pearl’s strength as she watches her child go through this,” Dunseith continued. “It really made me think about all the times I have been less than positive over very trivial things. As I said before, when we went into this we wanted to change a child's life, but I know, for the team, in the one hour that we met with them, Eli and Pearl have already changed our lives and left a lasting impact.”
For more information on Eli, his family and his story, visit the links provided above. Eli’s journey with the Buckeyes will be covered throughout the season on OhioStateBuckeyes.com as well as the team’s social media accounts.