CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Melrose High football players Toby Kulka, left, Josh Broom, center, and Lance Wagner hold their hands out to 5-year-old Jack Sullivan. Monday, the Melrose High football team presented Sullivan with a signed football to help keep his spirits up as he begins a new round of cancer treatments.
The cafeteria at Melrose High School was full of smiles Monday morning, but there was little doubt the biggest one belonged to Jack Sullivan as he slapped hands with members of the football team.
The 5-year-old was named an honorary Melrose Buffalo and given a signed football during a short presentation by members of the football team.
Diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer that forms in nerve tissue, Jack was on his way to Houston on Monday afternoon for surgery and treatments.
Principal Dickie Roybal, who has coached the Buffaloes to five state titles, including the last three in eight-man, said the team decided to do the presentation after learning Jack’s biggest ambition was to be a Melrose Buffalo.
“We wanted to lift his spirits up and let him know that we’re behind him all the way,” Roybal said.
Jack’s mother, Heather Sullivan, thanked the team for the gesture and told them “the legacy that you guys put into my kid is worth more than a state ring.”
She said the football team has embraced her son and gone out of their way to make him feel special.
“Since we moved here they’ve just surrounded him,” she said. “He looks up to these kids.”
Though the family has only lived in Melrose since November, she said the community opened its arms to them and has made them feel like part of the family.
Josh Sullivan, Jack’s father and an active duty member assigned to Cannon Air Force Base, said moving to the small village located west of the base was “the best decision we’ve made in a long time.”
After the school day ended Monday, Heather Sullivan said their family of eight would be heading to Houston to begin Jack’s treatment.
She said it was discovered in April that Jack’s condition had worsened and surgery was required, but despite all the treatments and procedures he has been through, “It doesn’t faze him.”
Sullivan said her son has remained energetic, playful and happy regardless of what he goes through.
“He’s something special,” she said.
Jack and his football were inseparable as he played with it in the cafeteria after the team left.