PUEBLO, Colo. (Nov. 6, 2018) - Hudson Hribar is a 9-year-old boy living in Pueblo, Colorado with his parents Kari and Chad, and brother, Grant. Although he's been battling Leukemia for the last two years, Hudson has faced many trials throughout his short lifetime. On Oct. 26, Kari shared Hudson's story of bravery with a room full of Colorado State University-Pueblo football players, coaches and staff, as the ThunderWolves adopted the Hribar Family through the the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation.
Hudson was born with Down syndrome and without the four chambers of his heart fully developed. Hudson underwent surgery to repair his heart at only a few months old. Kari and her husband Chad have provided the best opportunities for their son to thrive, however they were faced with another obstacle when Hudson was diagnosed with Leukemia two years ago at the age of seven. Just a few weeks ago the ThunderWolves Football team was able to be part of the good news in Hudson's journey.
"We're so grateful to Friends of Jaclyn for bringing us together and I'm excited to see what the future brings," Kari said.
The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation is a non-profit organization which aims 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. Denis Murphy, Jaclyn's father and founder and president of the foundation, shared her story with CSU-Pueblo Football and the Hribar family as part of Hudson's "adoption" ceremony. Jaclyn was also 9-years-old when she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Through some mutual friends Jaclyn was paired with the Northwestern Women's Lacrosse team as she began to face her trials. Denis saw the strength and encouragement the team provided for his daughter and later decided to start an organization to do the same for other children facing similar medical diagnosis.
"John Wristen, the head coach here, he's a leader," Denis said. "Leaders instill qualities into their players and the education and the athletics, as well as, the component that John is instilling upon them is going to give them a competitive advantage in life. They're going to make a difference and they already have today."
When Coach Wristen received the notification that there was a match for his team to be part of the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, he was excited and knew he needed to act fast. Wristen had known Murphy for six years through the Colorado Coaches for Charity and started communication with him right away. Murphy flew out from New York prior to the last home football game of the regular season for the ThunderWolves.
"When I got the e-mail about three weeks ago of a young man that would fit the criteria of the Jaclyn Foundation, I jumped on it right away," Wristen said. "Now we've adopted a family to be part of the ThunderWolves."
Friday before the Oct. 27 game, the team interacted with Hudson, Grant and the family. They shared cake, Hudson and Grant took pictures by their own lockers in the Pack locker room and played on the field at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl. Saturday, gameday, Hudson was given the opportunity to spend the morning with the team for breakfast, pre-game and the Pack Walk to the stadium. Grant, Hudson's brother, was not to be forgotten either. The Jaclyn Foundation also has a "Safe on the Sidelines" program which includes siblings of a child with cancer. Grant was the Kick-Off Kid during the Senior Day and Military Appreciation game. Both Hudson and Grant entered the ThunderBowl through the inflatable wolfhead tunnel as the team came out for the game and were invited to watch from the sidelines.
"I think it will be great motivation for Hudson for years to come to be part of something like that," said Chad Hribar, Hudson's father. "It means a lot to see them both as happy as they are."
The adoption wasn't just for the weekend, but for life, as the Hribars were welcomed to the Pack Family.
"Hopefully we can give back. Part of our mission statement is to compete at a high level both on and off the field, but to learn to be humble and give back to this community and this is a great way to do it," Wristen said. "We have some great young men that just love having fun and making someone else smile. That's what's key, making someone else smile."