Sunday, September 21, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Littlest Aggie Alyssa Kalb means so much to so many

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The littlest Aggie, Alyssa Kalb, smiles while watching her "adopted sisters" at a recent UCD women's gymnastics practice. The team has welcomed Alyssa, who has a brain tumor, into the Aggie family. Courtesy photo

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From page B1 | February 27, 2014 |

She’s won the hearts of Aggie gymnasts, this Foresthill 6-year-old, Alyssa Kalb.

“Adopted” earlier this month by the UC Davis women’s team, Alyssa has had a chance to attend meets and workouts.

She’s dabbled in some of her new sisters’ events and now even has her own cubbyhole at the Aggie practice facility.

How did little Alyssa get so lucky? Unfortunately, by being terribly unlucky.

Alyssa has a brain tumor — and for this Aggie ray of sunshine, the fight has been demanding, exhausting. Chemotherapy, MRIs, anesthesia, tests … all cloaked by uncertainty.

“With everything that Alyssa has endured, it truly is exciting to see her as a ‘normal’ 6-year-old and having fun with no worries,” mom Terry told The Enterprise. “The team has opened their hearts up to our family. It is exciting to watch the kids at their practice, play and just have fun.

“Being able to watch (the Aggie women’s) practices and meets are a distraction to our everyday lives.”

Along with husband Rick and Alyssa’s other siblings — Alexis, 8, and Ricky, 4 — the Kalbs will be in attendance Friday at The Pavilion when UC Davis meets Seattle Pacific in a dual meet.

Alyssa’s courage will be celebrated during what is being called Friends of Jaclyn Night. UCD also salutes Aggie seniors Madeline Kennedy, Anna Shumaker and Regi Solvkjar.

The rotations begin at 7 p.m.

Founded in 2005, the Friends of Jaclyn work to improve the quality of life for children (and their families) who are affected by pediatric brain tumors. Namesake Jaclyn Murphy was 9 years old when she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.

At the time, she was “adopted” by the Northwestern women’s lacrosse team and the Wildcats won the first of what became seven straight NCAA titles.

Good-luck charm Jaclyn started winning, too. Today, she’s a sophomore at Marist College.

For Alyssa, her first month as an Aggie has been super …

“I have 17 big sisters,” she says. “They’re nice. I think they are very loving to me. I can play in the foam pit, jump on the trampoline … watch my big sisters practice!”

Alyssa says she wants to be a gymnast someday, and knowing that she’s been wearing some way-cool Aggie gear (compliments of the team) recently, it’s no secret where she’ll be headed to college.

“Does she have skills?” UCD floor-exercise specialist and co-captain Kennedy repeats the question. “Impressive skills. She’s fearless.”

“We are honored to be a part of the dedication,” Terry Kalb adds. “Most of all, this is another step to bringing awareness to children living with brain tumors. Friends of Jaclyn is a wonderful and simple program and it has brought a different level of happiness to Alyssa and our family.”

Thinking back to Jaclyn Murphy’s experience — where both she and her new family reached new levels after joining forces — everyone hopes there’s a similar relationship taking place between the Aggie women and Alyssa’s health.

While UCD discovered this week it received its best-ever national ranking of No. 31, the Kalb family got terrific news about Alyssa’s health …

“Alyssa’s tumor is stable,” mom says, spreading the news on the family’s Facebook page. “The radiologist said it shrank a little. We are good with stable.”

Amazing what a little love can do for one’s well-being.

Notes: Former Aggie quarterback Austin Heyworth found Alyssa — who was diagnosed in 2012 — and discovered her favorite sport is gymnastics. He approached UCD coach John Lavallee. “I brought this to the team and it took them a half of a second to decide this was the right thing to do,” Lavallee says. “This is a very talented gymnastics team; they are very accomplished students, but really they are just amazing individuals. I think this is what Aggie Pride is all about.” … Heyworth is a special assistant to state Assembly Speaker John Pérez and got involved with the Friends of Jaclyn group after his friend Greg Campbell was diagnosed with a tumor last year. Campbell, also a former Aggie footballer, is Pérez’s chief of staff. … “Meeting Alyssa was a whirlwind of emotions,” Aggie co-captain Shumaker remembers. “She has been through so much that having the opportunity to be a part of her life and make her life better is the coolest thing ever.”

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at bgallaudet@davisenterprise.net or 530-320-4456.

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