Sick boy gets thrill from Bucs visit
By TERRI D. REEVES
TAMPA -- Jake's parents say they'd have his college education paid for if they had a dollar for every time someone has told them their son resembles Jonathan Lipnicki, the blond, bespectacled, cutie pie in the movie Jerry Maguire.
Not only does Jake Beausir look like the child actor, but he possesses that same scene-stealing charisma.
One thing, though, sets Jake and Jonathan apart.
Jake was born with bilateral retinoblastoma, cancer of the retinas. The Palm Harbor 5-year-old is blind in his left eye and only sees peripherally in his right. Although the future of his sight is in question, his doctors and parents hope he will lead a full and otherwise healthy life.
Recently Palm Harbor pediatrician Janet Black referred Jake to the Kids Wish Network, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses. Jake told them he would like a visit with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
So on Friday, he got the star treatment, with a limousine trip to Tampa and a chance to watch the team's closed practice. He met some of his favorite players and their coach, Jon Gruden.
Jake stood on the training field sidelines and wore a No. 40 jersey in honor of one of his beloved players, running back Mike Alstott. After the practice, players came up to shake his hand, and to autograph his football and jersey.
"All of the players are signing my shirt!" he told his parents, Nancy and Mike Beausir and his sister Ally, 9.
Doling out golden tokens provided by Kids Wish Network, Jake bid all the players good fortune.
"This is my good luck point for Sunday, buddy," Alstott said, gripping the token in his hand.
Defensive lineman Warren Sapp reciprocated by disappearing into the locker room and returning with his St. Sebastian medallion, which he placed around Jake's neck.
"This is for good luck to you," said Sapp.
Then Gruden emerged with a bag full of Buccaneer goodies.
"These are for Jake, my main man," Gruden said as he handed Jake the bag and an air horn. "Now just make sure you don't blow it in the house."
Jake blew the air horn. The startled group of onlookers jumped. Jake grinned.
The youngster was diagnosed with the disease when he was 9 months old. One of the first symptoms, his mother said, was white-eye reflection in his baby pictures.
"Where most people get red-eye, his was white," she said.
He has undergone months of chemotherapy and now travels frequently to Miami for laser treatments. Doctors recently told the family about a setback after finding additional tumors behind his eyes.
His mother said Jake has a particularly aggressive form of the disease, which occurs in 1 of every 15,000 live births.
Jake sees by turning his head away from the person or object and viewing from the side. Still the spunky preschooler manages to play golf, baseball, soccer, and his favorite sport, football.
"He's never been to a game, but he watches the Bucs every Sunday and re-enacts each play with his dad," Mrs. Beausir said.
On Friday, the family found out they will attend their first Bucs game. The team donated four tickets on the 50-yard line for Sunday's game with the Minnesota Vikings.
"He is thrilled," said Mrs. Beausir. "He loves the Bucs so much, he cries when the game is over."
How to help
If you know a child between 3 and 18 with a life-threatening illness, you may contact Madeline Robinson, wish coordinator of the Kids Wish Network at (813) 891-9374 or toll-free at 1-888-918-9004. You may also visit the Web site at www.kidswishnetwork.org.
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