Sara Robinson has never been invited to a sleepover by any of her classmates. Her parents Jay and Mary Robinson wish it didn’t have to be this way, but they understand.
“I’m used to it. We’ve lived with it her whole life,” Jay said. “My daughter could have a seizure at any time, any how.”
Sara is 10 years old now. Jay and Mary adopted her at birth. Less than two weeks after she was born in 2004, Sara was diagnosed with epilepsy. In May 2014, the Robinson family’s bad luck got even worse. An MRI revealed a brain tumor behind Sara’s left eye.
After Sara endured six months of chemotherapy starting in October of that year, and an additional round of radiation, the tumor behind her left eye is stable, but it is still wrapped around her optic nerve.
Her epilepsy – which is unrelated to the tumor – has caused cognitive struggles. Sara’s speech can be delayed, which gives her difficulty making friends her own age.
Sara still suffers from seizures, and is vulnerable to have another at any second.
“I know what to do when it happens,” Jay said. “I wouldn’t want to put that on another parent.”
So he and his wife Mary were caught off guard when seniors Alex Reid and Crystal Young, two of Sara’s new friends from CSU’s volleyball team, asked if they could take her out for dinner and then go back to Moby Arena for a movie and a sleepover.
Jay and Mary met with them beforehand to let them know what to do if Sara has a seizure and what medication she will need. To explain what they would be getting into.
The players’ response: “No problem.”
The Rams welcomed Sara to the team back in March in a partnership with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation. Sara is the second child to be partnered with a Colorado State athletics team, following Jack Miller, who became an honorary member of the CSU football team two years ago. Sara even has a locker with her name on it and a jersey with her No. 30.
“Sports are her escape, without a doubt,” Jay said. “You don’t have to do a lot of conversing, and she is very active.”
When the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation reached out to the CSU team, they got a response almost immediately. It turned out some of the players had already been hoping to upgrade the roster.
“I always looked at the football team and Jack Miller, so I always said that I hope we get a Friends with Jaclyn adoptee,” Young said. “Then they came into practice … I was so excited.”
Sara’s cognitive delays make it hard for her to write proper sentences. But, she manages to do it for her new teammates so they can stay in touch when she cannot make it to practice. Reid messages back and forth with her regularly on Facebook and was quick to point out that Sara is more of a role model and inspiration to every member of the team than they could ever hope be to the 10-year-old.
“She’s one of my favorite people,” Reid said. “We always get texts from her parents about everything that we’re doing, but in my mind, she’s doing so much for us.”
“A lot of people can complain about having to workout, having to practice, and this little girl has so much more going on in her life, and she’s so excited every time we see her,” Reid added. “You never see her when she’s not smiling. It really puts everything in perspective.”
Of course, there was a feeling out process at first in the relationship. Sara can be a bit shy, but as she got to know all of the players individually, she began to warm up to them.
Everyone on the team knew they had something special with Sara by the end of the first day they met.
“She jumped across their laps and we took pictures. It absolutely just blossomed from there,” Jay said. “That first night, they told her, ‘we’re your sisters from now on’.”
Donations to fight Sara’s cancer can be made at http://www.gofundme.com/KillSarasCancer.
Collegian Sports Editor Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @emccarthy22.