Women's Soccer 'Adopts' Young Cancer Patient

Members of the GW women's soccer team with Lily Noakes.

Aug. 22, 2011

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For the past two weeks, the GW women's soccer team has been hard at work preparing for the start of their season, which began Aug. 19 with a match against Georgetown University on the Mount Vernon Athletic Field.

But on Aug. 17, the team took time off from its training to visit with one of its biggest--and most unique--fans.

Lily Noakes is a 3-year-old with a pediatric brain tumor. The Colonials first met Lily and her family in 2009, when they "adopted" Lily through Friends of Jaclyn, a nonprofit organization that matches children with pediatric brain tumors and their families with local college and high school sports teams. 

The adoption means that the team serves as another support system for Lily and her family. Junior Molly Bruh said the team invites Lily and her family to games and tailgates and keeps in touch with emails, phone calls and messages.

On Aug, 17, the team met with Lily and her family--which includes her brother Landon and parents Melanie and Eric--on the Mount Vernon Campus. Lily was unable to attend any GW games last season due to treatments, so this meeting was the first for the six sophomores and 10 freshmen on the team.

"We've embraced Lily as one of our teammates," said Bruh. "And we're here for the entire family as well."

Senior Lindsey Rowe said seeing Lily reminded the team "about the importance of living each and every day to the fullest."

"Nobody can imagine what that family is going through and their strength and optimism inspires each of us," she said.

For the Noakes family, the meeting was a chance to have some fun after spending most of the day in the hospital for Lily's first post-radiation MRI.

"After being in the hospital, it was nice to get outside run around and play," said Melanie Noakes. "With [the team's] kind words of encouragement and uplifting attitudes, it made our day when we met up with them."

Diagnosed when she was 9-months-old, Lily had a second tumor removed this past June. Now that Lily is feeling better, Bruh said the team wants to get more involved with the family, including babysitting Lily and Landon to give their parents a night out and visiting Children's National Medical Center, where Lily receives most of her care.

"We are going to have the family walk out with us onto the field during a game to introduce them to our fans," Bruh said.

Head Coach Tanya Vogel first learned about Friends of Jaclyn in 2008 when the GW women's lacrosse team adopted a girl from the program.

"I thought it would be an outstanding, real-life experience for our program," said Coach Vogel. "For [the Noakes], they get another family. For us, we get exposed to a really courageous young kid, and we get to see the fight she's put on against this cancer. It's inspiring for us."

Coach Vogel said she and the team have come to love the family, who moved to Northern Virginia from Richmond several years ago to be closer to Children's Hospital.

And the feeling is mutual for the Noakes family.

"The women's soccer team has always been a great support to our family," Noakes said. "The kids had a blast with their big sisters."



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