Pontiac youth joins Bradley team as honorary member

Jalene Woolford connected with Bradley women’s basketball through a program for children with serious illnesses. (Photo courtesy Jim Woolford)

By Cynthia Grau

PONTIAC – A Pontiac St. Mary’s student has been signed as a honorary player with the Bradley University women’s basketball team.

Last week’s signing of eight-year-old Jalene Woolford was through a program called Team Impact, which pairs a young patient with a serious illness with a college team. Jalene’s father, Pontiac Police Chief Jim Woolford, said when they applied, Bradley responded immediately.

Young Jalene received her own locker, seat on the bench and numbered jersey in a ceremony in Peoria.

“Jalene said it was one of the few times in her life she was speechless,” Jim Woolford said. “She just was overwhelmed with everything that was going on. My wife and I were over-excited for her. The girls on the team made her feel so welcome.”

Jalene suffers from spinal astrocytoma, which is considered a brain tumor. Her father said her tumor is found in the base of her skull and surgeons couldn’t separate it from her spinal cord, so she went through radiation and is now on chemotherapy. The last MRI showed the tumor was stable.

Jim Woolford said although this signing was honorary, you just never know.

“We’re hoping that she gets in a game or two,” Woolford said with a chuckle. “There’s a little height disadvantage with some of the girls.”

Cynthia Grau can be reached at news@wjez.com.

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