By PJ Tracy
DELIGHT — A local boy, troubled with cancer from an early age, was given the all-star treatment recently.
Jacob Teel, a fifth grader at Delight Elementary School, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age three, has battled the disease for the past seven years, undergoing bone marrow transplants and two relapses (2012 and 2015) along the way.
Stand Up To Cancer, a national group dedicated to bringing funding and awareness to various types of cancer research (www.standuptocancer.org), had an opening for a boy much like Teel, and, against many other worthy candidates, he was selected to attend the Major League Baseball All-Star Softball Game after being nominated by his doctor.
Monica Teel credited Stand Up To Cancer as being a “great organization” that helped pair resources to doctors that had the ability and desire to save lives.
With the festivities held in Miami this year, the softball game is the opener for Major League Baseball’s All-Star weekend, and features former MLB players and celebrities.
At first the Teels thought Jacob was simply going as an honorary sideline reporter, that was until, former MLB pitcher Al Leiter gave up his bat and allowed the Delight youth to take an at bat for him in the first inning.
Jacob garnered a hit to get on base and then later rounded the bases and scored on a home run by former MLB catcher Benito Santiago.
Video of Teel’s hit and running the bases can be seen at http://m.mlb.com/news/article/241498754/leiter-honors-young-cancer-survivor-jacob-teel/
Stating that batting was his favorite memory, Jacob commented that running the bases in front of so many people was also noteworthy. He added that actor Jamie Foxx was his favorite celebrity he met.
He also met USA gold medal softball pitcher Jenny Finch and former Miami Dolphins all-pro defensive end Jason Taylor.
“It was an amazing, once in a lifetime experience,” said Jacob’s mother Monica Teel. “It’s just amazing to see everything that he has gone through that he was physically able to get down there and do that.”
While in south Florida, the family decided they might as well see the Everglades, so they ventured there as well for a tour, affording the family a chance to ride an airboat and hold an alligator.
“It was heaver than I thought it would be,” said Jacob.
The family also spent some time on the beach.
Jacob is currently part of a cutting edge program in the CARTI system for his current treatment, one he must travel to Philadelphia to garner. After a couple of extended stays in Pennsylvania, the family now travels once every three months for three to four days for Jacob’s treatment, which is scheduled to be ongoing for another year.
In addition, Jacob must trek to Little Rock every week for an infusion of blood and platelets, which his body is still not producing at a proper rate.
And, obviously, such medical care doesn’t come cheap. Jacob’s airfare to Philadelphia alone is funded, as is a hotel room while the family is in Philadelphia, but the rest of the financial burden falls on the family.
“The hospital in Little Rock is always commenting on the amount of support we receive — whether it is prayer, benefits or emotional support. We feel that the local community is behind us 100% and would help any way they could,” Monica stated, noting it was nice not to feel completely alone in all of this.