History suggests a community story on jaguars.com might not be the most popular or draw the same amount of interest as a story about an upcoming game. Well, I'm going to interrupt the football talk for a second and write about it anyway. This was a week of cheers, tears and inspiration at EverBank Field.
Despite an 0-2 start to the season, several Jaguars players and head coach Mike Mularkey continued to give back to the Jacksonville community. It started last week with Tyson Alualu purchasing 25 tickets for the nurses at Wolfson Children's Hospital, continued with 10 players joining an Olympian on the main playing field and ended today with a special treat for a nine-year old girl.
Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars gave Jaiden Scott a birthday to remember today. Jaiden was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma last October and had a relapse in July. Mularkey and a host of players including Alualu, Justin Blackmon, Laurent Robinson and Mike Thomas met Jaiden on a recent visit to the hospital.
When Jones-Drew was told about Jaiden's condition and her upcoming birthday (Thursday), a plan was put in motion. He arranged to have a limousine arrive at Jaiden's Westside home today and transport her family to the stadium. Thinking she was going to have lunch in the cafeteria, Jaiden was pleasantly surprised when the front office staff surprised her with a birthday cake delivered by Jaxson de Ville.
At the end of Friday's practice, Mularkey and the team surrounded Jaiden on the field where they gave a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. Jones-Drew put the finishing touches on a great day by presenting her with an iPad tablet and several other gifts. Players signed autographs, took pictures and put a permanent smile on Jaiden's face.
The week started with more than 100 children on Monday getting the opportunity to play on an NFL field. Children from Special Olympics, Wolfson Children's Hospital, Seamark Ranch and Dreams Come True spent more than an hour on the same field the Jaguars used the day before against the Houston Texans.
Cornerback Aaron Ross and his wife, Sanya Richards-Ross, hosted a special community event that included Jones-Drew, Greg Jones, Zach Potter, Josh Scobee, Tyson Alualu, John Chick, D'Anthony Smith, Blackmon and Antonio Dennard.
Participants had the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of football, track and field and the value of teamwork. Richards-Ross, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, helped the children run a 20-yard dash along with her husband and Blackmon at one of six stations set up on the field.
Jones-Drew and Jones taught the group the value of a good touchdown dance while the defensive linemen ran an "intense" station complete with growling and running. Scobee taught the basics of kicking while Potter held down the quarterback station. The day ended with sandwiches, chips and cookies from Winn-Dixie.
A parent associated with the Dreams Come True organization stopped me following the event and said, "This was an amazing experience."
I couldn't have said it better and it wouldn't be possible without people like Mularkey and a group of more than 53 men who believe in doing the right thing. As we go through the weekend where football takes priority, stop and remember Jaiden Scott who will be readmitted to the hospital for further treatment.
Now we can go back to football.