Nothing could keep 13-year-old Jacob Barford from playing with the Baltimore Blast, especially not illness.
For all his life, Jacob dreamed of playing for his hometown professional soccer team, and he was working his way there when he hit a roadblock. In eighth grade, he was diagnosed with Evans Syndrome, an autoimmune disease in which the body's antibodies attack the good blood cells.
Not only did the Blast come through, Jacob was made an honorary team member. He ran through drills, played in the scrimmage, took a team photo and received a ball signed by the entire team.
"It was really cool," Jacob tells the Good News Blog. "It was fun being there. The best part of it was the game at the end, getting to be a part of the scrimmage."
Because he's currently on heavy medication and waiting for the next step in his treatment, the eighth-grader hasn't been able to play with his team at Centreville Middle School. He can participate in practice, but only mildly. He describes himself now as "out of shape."
According to the Baltimore Sun, since Jacob's condition was treated quickly, his blood cells could return to safe levels. He takes regular medication and maintains a healthy diet. Once a week, he has blood work sent to Johns Hopkins.
Jacob's mother, Alicia, says the experience with the Blast did a lot to boost his spirits. "It was tremendous, what they did for him was amazing," she comments. "Not being able to play has been heart-wrenching for him, and what that organization did really lifted his spirits."
While Jacob says spending the day with his favorite team was more about having a good time than a learning experience, he did find the Blast to be motivational. He's such a fan he can't even name a favorite player - his favorite is the team! - and he aims to be back on the field again soon at full speed.
"I've always wanted to be a profession soccer player," Jacob notes. "[My goal] is to keep going and get better."
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