Santa Margarita Catholic High School recently teamed up with the Jessie Rees Foundation to spread joy to children fighting cancer. During Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, students participated in a JoyChallenge filling JoyJars with quarters in each classroom. The effort raised $2,900 for the Jessie Rees Foundation, which works to ensure every child fighting cancer has the support and resources to Never Ever Give Up. The funds will make it possible to send 145 JoyJars to children with cancer. JoyJars are filled with toys and activities bringing smiles to children worldwide during their fight. They were developed by 12-year-old Jessie Rees who courageously fought cancer from March of 2011 to January of 2012. Jessie wanted to send hope and joy to her peers fighting cancer.
Through the school’s partnership with the foundation, five-year-old Joshua Esquivel of La Habra was named Santa Margarita’s honorary team captain during their game against Mission Viejo High School. Joshua fought a Grade 4 brain tumor, which has since cleared after undergoing chemotherapy and radiation as well as two brain surgeries to remove the pressure caused by the tumor.
“Seeing what he’s been through, seeing him in the hospital not having the chance to be a kid and now seeing the energy he has tonight, it’s amazing,” said his mother, Lupe Zacatenco. “We are blessed he is here and he’s come so far.”
At the game, Joshua, smiling ear to ear, met players and coaches, took the field for warm-ups, accompanied the team captains for the coin toss, and was introduced to the players at the pregame locker room meeting. The chatty little boy was quick to show the coaches and players his dance moves and even challenged them to thumb wars. He then watched the game from the sidelines in a Santa Margarita jersey given to him by SMCHS Head Football Coach Richard Fisher.
“It’s humbling,” Fisher said. “We play the game football and he is playing the game of life … It’s humbling to see the courage of a young kid facing those circumstances. It’s a good reminder to our kids about never giving up.”