Giving Back

8-Year Old Brain Cancer Survivor Meets Eric Decker at Football Camp in Scotch Plains

Lucas Reiling, 8, meets New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker Credits: Michael Bruchert

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker hosted a special one-day football camp for kids (grades 1-8) on June 6 at the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School football field, but he wasn’t the only inspirational person on the field.

Lucas Reiling, 8, a patient of Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside, NJ, who has been battling brain cancer for seven years, was selected as a “Hatton Wish Participant” for The Citi Eric Decker Football ProCamp event and had the opportunity to meet the Jets wide receiver.

“Lucas knows the stats of his favorite teams, and is always wearing shirts and hats from his favorite teams,” suggested Theresa Defosse, Inpatient Rehab Technology Coordinator at PSE&G Children’s Specialized Hospital, who nominated him for the experience.  “Other kids would be watching Disney and Nickelodeon, and Lucas was watching ESPN. Lucas was the first kid I thought of when I heard about the football camp.” 

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Lucas is very medically involved – he uses a wheelchair and depends on his parents as well as a nurse for all of his daily care. He receives multiple services through the Mountainside location and relies on a ventilator 24 hours a day to help him breathe, as well as a feeding tube for his daily nutrition.

“He really enjoyed being at the camp, watching the kids practice and he especially enjoyed getting his award,” said Amy Reiling, Lucas’ mother. “My son inspires me to respect what people are going through in their own lives. As Lucas’ caretaker, I have become more patient and humbled.”

The Hatton Wish program provides once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for children with disabilities and their families to attend select sports camps and meet star professional athletes.

“With all that he has endured, Lucas hasn’t lost his sense of humor; he is funny and fun,” explained Reiling. “People who know Lucas see this love of life and are overwhelmed with love for him. It helps people realize that as they have much less to overcome, they too should enjoy and appreciate each day.”

Children’s Specialized Hospital is the nation’s leading provider of inpatient and outpatient care for children from birth to 21 years of age facing special health challenges — from chronic illnesses and complex physical disabilities like brain and spinal cord injuries, to developmental and behavioral issues like autism and mental health. At thirteen different New Jersey locations, our pediatric specialists partner with families to make our many innovative therapies and medical treatments more personalized and children can achieve more of their goals.

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