Florida International Athletics

MIAMI -- The FIU softball team signed its newest member on Friday afternoon when Juliana Silvernail became a Panther. Although Silvernail will not be in the lineup or on the diamond, she’ll give the Panthers a big lift this coming season. Along with head coach Beth Torina and senior associate athletic director Julie Berg, Silvernail signed a certificate of adoption in the team's locker room to become part of the Panther softball team.

Silvernail is part of a program called the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation (FOJ), which is a non-profit, charitable organization that improves the quality of life for children with pediatric brain tumors and their families.FOJ matches a child with a college or high school sports team based on geographic basis. Juliana along with her parents, Angie and Sean, live in Hialeah. By adopting Silvernail, the Panther softball team welcomed her as part of their family. FOJ has completed more than 230 adoptions in more than 20 different sports and there is currently a waiting list of more than 1,000 schools wanting to adopt.

“It’s a great give and take, because we go to some of her stuff and she comes to our games,” redshirt junior first baseman Jackie Tetlow said. “We went to her birthday party before Christmas. Anything she would want us to be there, we would go to it.”

Angie said she will cook dinner for the team before the season. The Panthers have invited Juliana and her parents to all their games this season and are dedicating a game in March to Juliana. FIU will wear special jerseys designed by assistant coach Lindsay Leftwich for that game. The jerseys will be black with “Juliana, Friends of Jaclyn” written on the front. After the game, the jerseys will be auctioned off and the money will be donated to the FOJ foundation.

Part of the ceremony on Friday included Juliana receiving her own jersey, cap, glove -- donated by Akadema -- and locker inside the FIU softball locker room. Afterward, the team cut a cake donated by Devine Delicacies in honor of Juliana. The cake was in the shape of a yellow softball and had the inscription: “Welcome to the FIU Family!!!” Tetlow and Leftwich came up with the idea of adopting Silvernail through FOJ.

“It’s something that is really cool,” Leftwich said. “It takes the focus off of [the softball team] and makes them realize their problems are not as big as they think they are. At the end of the day they realize they are really blessed. They get to play every day and there are a lot of little kids that can’t really do that.”

FOJ was formed in 2005 by Jaclyn Murphy’s father. Jaclyn was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in March 2004 when she was 9 years old. Jaclyn was paired with the Northwestern women’s lacrosse team and a year later the Wildcats would win the first of their five consecutive national championships.

The Panthers hope some of that good luck rubs off on them, but they’re well aware that there’s a more important purpose to being a part of Juliana’s life.

“This gives you a different perspective,” Tetlow said. “Sometimes it’s hard and practice is tough or you have a bad day at school, but when you look at her she’s only eight and she’s going through all this stuff. It makes you think; maybe my life isn’t really that hard. Even though I had to run a lot in practice or it was a long, tough practice. I still get to play a sport that I love that she’s probably never going to be able to do, because of the trials she’s gone through. Being able to talk about this with my teammates makes a difference, because everyone cherishes their life a little bit more.”