In Partnership with the Jessie Rees Foundation, 5-year-old Cancer Survivor Serves as Honorary Captain at SMCHS Varsity Football Game

By Maureen McAndrews     9/27/2018

At the varsity football game against Mayfair High School on Friday, Sept. 7, the Santa Margarita Catholic High School community honored Joshua “Joshy” Hamlin of Fullerton. Joshy’s battle with leukemia began on Aug. 29, 2017 and, after many cycles of treatment, he went into remission last December. Partnering with the Jessie Rees Foundation, Santa Margarita welcomed Joshy and his family to Trabuco Hills High School where he had the opportunity to serve as the varsity football team’s honorary team captain. Joshy took the field with the team for warm-ups, joined the Eagles for the pregame locker room meeting where he was introduced by Head Football Coach Rich Fisher and accompanied the team captains for the coin toss prior to the Eagles 55-7 win over Mayfair. 

Santa Margarita’s partnership with the Jessie Rees Foundation honors the legacy of Jessie, a courageous and compassionate 12-year-old girl who courageously fought two brain tumors from March 2011 to January 2012. The mission of the Jessie Rees Foundation is to ensure that every child fighting cancer has the support and resources to “Never Ever Give Up” (NEGU). September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  

Joshy’s day began on the field where he had the chance to meet Coach Fisher and other members of the Eagles’ coaching staff. Then it was Joshy’s turn to show everyone his speed and skills. Joshy caught a number of passes and even ran for a few touchdowns as the Eagles’ coaches and players looked on in awe and amazement. Even though Joshy can’t play contact sports due to his condition, and he requires daily doses of oral chemotherapy, his maintenance treatment hasn’t held back his positive attitude and spirit. 

“It isn’t a problem getting him to take his medicine because he tells us it makes him strong,” said Joshy’s mother, Vanessa. “The positive attitude that Joshy has in the face of his cancer makes him my hero.” 

After some time on the field, Joshy joined Coach Fisher in the locker room as he delivered an inspiring speech to his team before kick-off. 

“Joshua is battling leukemia right now and he’s kicking its butt,” said Fisher. “If we can all be half as brave as he is, we are going to like our results on the field tonight.”  

Walking hand in hand with his fellow captains from the Eagle football team, Joshy led the boys through the Eagle head inflatable tunnel and onto the field. After sharing another special moment as an honorary captain for the game’s coin toss, Joshy enjoyed an exciting Eagle victory with his family from the sidelines. 

As a representative of the Jessie Rees Foundation, Jessie Rees’s older sister and Santa Margarita alumna Shaya Rees ’15, was in attendance. Shaya said the day was an opportunity to bring Joshy and his family an evening full of fun while honoring the memory of her courageous sister. Shaya helps to ensure that families battling pediatric cancer alongside their child can have moments that are free of worry.  

“These experiences are unique and special for me as Jessie’s sister and as a Santa Margarita alumna because my freshman year was when my sister passed away,” she said. “It’s very special to give another family lasting memories that they can hold onto and give them a little boost of encouragement. To create these memories with the school that rallied around me is something that means the world to me.” 

Toward the end of Friday’s game, Joshy had a final moment of recognition as he held hands with the Eagle mascot and was serenaded with a chant from the Eagles’ Nest. The award-winning Santa Margarita student section echoed chants of “Let’s go Joshy,” leaving their young hero with a smile from ear-to-ear. 

“The support and love from the Eagles’ Nest and just the overall Santa Margarita community was awesome,” said Joshy’s father, Joseph. “To see my son’s face light up like a normal kid made this day one of the best days our family has had in a long time.”  

The maintenance stage for Joshy’s cancer treatment will conclude in December of 2020. Joshy began kindergarten on Aug. 13 and looks forward to a life of excitement and joy that every 5-year old deserves.