"Jaxxon's scan came back clean. Thank you so much to you and the Champion family for all your prayers and help. Jaxxon is blessed to have you. Please tell the Champion family the great news and we will see you very soon. You guys are the super best and Jaxxon says hi to Jake. Without you guys helping soooo much the trips to NYC would be very scary."
With lots of LOVE - Kim (Jaxxon's Mom) and family - November 21, 2009
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Champion: More Than an All Star Team - By: Andrea Tatum
Marli, now a coach at Champion, is leading a different life than she imagined two years ago. When she was just a high school senior just months before beginning college, her life took an unexpected turn. Just a few weeks after her 18th birthday, Marli was hit by a drunk driver. Although she looks and acts perfectly normal, she suffered irrevocable traumatic brain damage.
Her mother and Champion All Stars Gym owner Michele Mastrianni has spent the last two years of her life taking care of her 20 year old daughter and says though Marli is a fighter, nothing has been the same since her injury.
Because of the severe damage to Marli's brain, she suffers from short term memory loss and is unable to read, write, drive, solve number problems, or use the computer. This has prevented her from attending college and becoming a teacher. After her diagnosis, she had to weigh other options for jobs, and Marli decided to be a cheerleading coach at Champion.
Though Marli suffers pain and frustration on a daily basis, she has learned to live with her injury and has made coaching cheerleading her top priority. She coaches the Champion Team Jaxx TV Stars, a team named after Jaxxon Reed, a young boy with Neuroblastoma, childhood brain cancer.
Jaxxon, who loved visiting Champion Gym and jumping on the trampoline, complained of "burning" pain in his head. He soon went into surgery for a brain tumor and shortly after was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer. This happened just months after Marli's diagnosis.
Each year, Champion All Stars enter a competition whose theme is a cure for cancer, and they have t-shirts made with Jaxxon's name and picture on them. Cheerleaders, coaches, and fans all wear the t-shirts in support of Jaxxon.
"While Jaxxon was staying in the Ronald McDonald House in New York City, he would brag about how he had his own team back home," says Michele. "He would say, 'They are my cheerleaders... they cheer for ME!'"
The team wouldn't have it any other way, and they feel that every time they step onto the competition floor they do it for Jaxxon. Michele adds that the team breaks on "Do it for Jaxx!" when they take the competition floor, and it's obvious that each team member has a passion for helping Jaxx and performing the routine just for him.
"The Jaxxon team is growing so much in our gym," says Michele. "As a matter of fact, next year we may have to have two teams in Jaxxon's name. People want to be on this team. They want to be a part of helping Jaxx!"
As for Marli, along with coaching Team Jaxx, she has found another way to cope with her head injury: a puppy named Jake. Michele says Jake has been great therapy and medicine for Marli, as well as for Jaxxon. "When Jaxxon sees Marli, he always asks about Jake," she says.
Michele says that although Jaxxon and Marli are different ages and they have different brain injuries, they still relate to each other a lot, and it's great that someone who understands Jaxxon can coach the team in his name.
"The example she sets in our gym is incredible. A student once told me that she will never complain at practice again because it's not fair when Miss Marli comes to the gym in pain each day," Michele explains. "Coaching her kids means everything to her, and I have watched her develop into a wonderful coach!
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