Young girl battling cancer joins Butler University’s cheer team

Photo courtesy of the Friends of Jaclyn Twitter account. 

MARRIAH MCKILLOP | STAFF REPORTER | mmckillo@butler.edu

The Butler community gained an honorary Bulldog that just so happens to love mac and cheese, the color purple, and Taylor Swift with all her being. On Feb. 27, the Butler University cheer team dedicated a practice to signing two-and-a-half-year old Caroline Schaler as the newest member of the team.

When Caroline’s parents told her of this important news, she could not hold back her excitement, constantly chanting, “rah rah Bulldogs!”

Caroline has recently been diagnosed with Stage 1, Type 3, Orbital Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma. With a tumor behind her left eye, she is currently undergoing chemotherapy and proton radiation treatment at Riley Children’s Hospital over the course of the next several months.

Jamie Troyer, Butler cheer coach, decided to add a new member to the team when she heard of the work of the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation.  The mission of this foundation is to “improve the quality of life for children battling pediatric brain tumors and other childhood cancers by pairing them with local teams, clubs and community groups”.

At Friends of Jaclyn, we are continuously involved in the child’s relationship with their team,” Alicia Provenzano, adoption and outreach coordinator for Friends of Jaclyn, said. “ We want to always make sure the family and team have a happy and healthy relationship that lasts for many seasons.”

After Troyer contacted the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, she believed it was worthwhile and something that all teams across the nation should look into doing.

“Any opportunity for Butler students to have the significant experience of helping others is extremely important to our community as a whole,” Troyer said. “Making Caroline an addition to our team was not only beneficial for her, but also beneficial to our students. There are tons of teams that can reach out to this foundation and do exactly what we are doing in order to give children experiences not all kids get. ”

Provenzano, who worked very closely with Caroline and her family was present at Hinkle Fieldhouse for the adoption ceremony.

“Caroline’s adoption ceremony to the Butler University Cheerleading team was an extremely inspirational moment” Provenzano said. “She has so much love for her new teammates. Friends of Jaclyn is very proud to welcome another amazing Butler University team into the FOJ Family,”

Provenzano and Troyer both attribute Caroline as a very upbeat and positive individual — common characteristics a cheerleader may need. Lucky for Caroline, she was born into a cheerleading dynasty.

Caroline is very passionate about cheerleading,” Provenzano said. “She is only two and a half years old, but cheerleading has been a special part of her family for many years.”

Provenzano’s job as adoption outreach coordinator is to find the perfect team that will ensure children like Caroline a wonderful experience with Friends of Jaclyn. Friends of Jaclyn is constantly searching for the team that will improve the quality of life for all their kids.

Caroline was beyond excited when her parents told her she would be a special member of the Butler Cheerleading team,” Provenzano said. “She may have not understood exactly what it meant, but she knew she was going to meet some very important people.”

Caroline was in charge of practice on Feb. 27 and she decided to throw a decent amount of cardio in for her new teammates, but they did not seem to mind.

“When we asked her what we should do, her idea every single time was to run,” Libbie Rammage, first-year strategic communications major said. “She had the cheerleaders running and jumping all over, she was just so full of energy. Caroline even got to be a part of a stunt!”

Though it was only Caroline’s first practice at Hinkle, she has already touched the life of Addie Mann, a first-year health sciences major.

“She had more energy than all of us and was just so happy,” Mann said. “After practice ended we all talked about how her positivity reminded all of us that our issues are so small compared to others, and if she can be positive despite her situation we can all be positive too.”

Not only has the Friends of Jaclyn pairing already impacted the lives of our Butler cheerleaders, it has also already affected Caroline.

“These athletes have already had an immense effect on Caroline’s journey” Provenzano said. “They will be there to give her love, support, and friendship throughout her treatment and beyond.”

Not only has Caroline received support from Butler’s student body, but she also gains support through social media. Caroline’s hashtag, #carolineconquers, contains a substantial amount of encouragement from many who have been touched by the character of this young cheerleader.

The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation Twitter page speaks to the upbeat character of Caroline in a previous tweet stating, “She may be small but her spirit is bigger than this world!”

Caroline’s mother told the cheerleaders that childhood cancer is a terrible thing, but if there is one kid that can handle the stress that comes along with it, it’s Caroline.

Despite Caroline’s illness, she still remains as positive as ever. Troyer speaks to Caroline’s character stating, “When she got there, she was not shy at all. Caroline completely ran the show.”

The foundation is constantly searching for caring people to assist in the lives of kids just like Caroline. Butler students that are not athletes even have an opportunity to make a difference with Friends of Jaclyn through the Guardian Angel Program. Guardian Angels send encouraging messages to families and children during their time of need.

Caroline, now a life-long member of the Butler cheer team, will be taking on Hinkle for years to come. With the assistance of Friends of Jaclyn, the Butler cheer team and Caroline will be able to form unbreakable bonds while cheering on the bulldogs.

“This is an amazing organization that brings teams together with children in need,” Troyer said. “We are lucky to have Caroline along for this journey. I am beyond excited for what’s to come.”

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