Shortly after Jackson Hogenkamp was diagnosed in early August with osterosarcoma, the Minster family got a call from Tony Vittorio.
The former University of Dayton baseball coach, who resigned after last season following 18 years with the Flyers, now is development director for a non-profit organization called Friends of Jaclyn, which “aims to improve the quality of life for children with pediatric brain tumors and other childhood cancers while spreading awareness about these diseases,” according to his page on the group’s website.
One way the group tries to help is pairing children with local teams, clubs or community groups. The Flyers “adopted” a child through the program while Vittorio was coach.
“He called me to see if we’d be interested in participating,” said Jackson’s father, Scott, whose family operates four funeral homes in west-central Ohio. “When we said yes, they started checking in with local colleges and Miami was gracious enough to say yes.”
Specifically, the Miami men’s basketball team, which officially welcomed Jackson to the team Dec. 16. He and his family watched practice before participating in a signing ceremony in the team locker room, where he was showered with RedHawk gear. They then returned to the court to shoot around.
“We were so honored to host Jackson,” first-year Miami coach Jack Owens said. “We’re psyched to have him here. He’s part of the RedHawk family now. We want him to keep fighting. We will keep him in our prayers and continue to support him in any way we can while he gets healthy.”
Since then, Jackson and members of his family have attended three games — the 72-59 loss at Ohio State, the Jan. 2 77-72 Mid-American Conference win at Bowling Green and Saturday’s 71-53 win over Ball State at Millett Hall, where Jackson was accompanied by his mother, Shelly, and Scott. Jackson, decked out in Miami gear, stood with the RedHawks during the National Anthem before sitting on the bench and participating in timeout huddles during the game.
“It means everything,” said Jackson, who turned 15 on Dec. 27. “It gives me some older kids for me to talk to and more people to support me.”
“He’s always loved sports,” Shelly said. “Growing up, he always had a ball in his hands, chasing his older brothers around. He wanted to be part of a team. It’s just heartwarming.”
“The support of the community has been amazing,” Scott added.
Jackson is one of Shelly and Scott’s four children. Garrett, 22, Carter, 18, and Alayna, 13, are his siblings, along with Garrett’s wife, Rachel.
Miami’s men’s team isn’t the first at the university to adopt a child. The hockey team connected with Michael Quintero in 2010. The baseball team added Tyler Holliday to the program in 2015, the same year the football team adopted Liam Kaufman through the Team Impact program.
Dayton Children’s Hospital treatment for Jackson’s type of bone cancer includes more than 20 weeks of chemotherapy, surgery to remove a tumor located in his rib and then another 20-30 weeks of chemotherapy.
“Jackson’s presence is uplifting to the team,” senior forward Logan McLane said. “Just to see what he’s been through in his life and how he’s fought through it and how strong he is as a person is inspiring. When we look at him, we get a sense of perseverance to not give up and give an extra effort in what we do because of what he’s been battling through.”