Former Oakdale Leader Sports Reporter Jagada Chambers first entered the Mustang Corral at the age of 13. It was 1989, North Stockton Bengals vs. Tri City Outlaws - and yes, he scored.
He still shares stories of that day with area locals. The uncertainty of coming to and playing in a ‘small town’ and the warm feeling he received upon leaving.
“Something about Oakdale is just special,” Chambers said.
The thought of returning to that very (somewhat updated) field to cover young players was unfathomable at the young age of 13. But as fate would have it, Chambers did return to The Corral, as well as the golf course, baseball diamond, wrestling room and other sports venues to write the very stories he once watched for his own name in when he was young.
Chambers will forever be known as the only Leader reporter to be thrown out of a game he was assigned to cover, for protesting a call. He was not related to any of the players of the game. They were athletes playing a game and he was a reporter sent to cover it. There is a funny thing, however, about passion. When you are truly passionate about something sometimes it is hard to contain.
“I just reacted,” Chambers told his editor following the game. “It was a bad call… I don’t know what happened. I saw a bad call and I reacted.”
In late 2009, Chambers was ‘called up’ to take a position at the Leader’s sister paper, The Manteca Bulletin. It was a bittersweet departure for a reporter who had come to love and accept the ups and downs of his beat. Friendships built, familiarity and the small town feel would be a bit different in the city of Manteca.
Now almost two years to the day of the last football game Chambers covered for the Mustangs, the two clubs have rallied together in support of Chambers, his wife and their 11-month-old son Jyriaun.
Sadly, in early September, Chambers’ only son was rushed to Kaiser Oakland Medical Center via ambulance from Stockton. Jyriaun was nine months old at the time.
“We noticed Jyriaun going backwards in his development,” Dawn Chambers, Jyriaun’s mother said. “Things he used to be able to do, such as sitting up on his own, he was no longer able to do.”
The first time parents made an appointment with their son’s pediatrician. Their appointment was at 2 p.m. and by 3:30 p.m. their doctor was making arrangements with Oakland and a transport team.
“At first we thought, it’s only Oakland, we can just drive,” Mrs. Chambers said. “They said your baby’s sick.”
By 3:30 p.m. that day, life had changed.”
According to the couple, their son’s head measurement was one of the first things the doctor took. It was unusually large and, coupled with the symptoms they shared, indicated to the doctor that Jyriaun had Hydroencephalitis. A CT Scan was ordered to confirm her suspicion. Upon doing the scan a mass was discovered in the lower portion of the cerebellum.
Upon arriving at Oakland, brain surgery to remove the mass was done immediately.
“Jyriaun was diagnosed with a type of brain tumor called Medulloblastoma, which is considered malignant because of its aggressive growth and potential to spread,” Mrs. Chambers shared.
His is desmoplastic, which is extremely rare in infants.”
“My immediate thought was, this is our worst fear realized,” Chambers said. “I thought I waited until the perfect time to have a child and it did not add up to me how this was our reality. I truly trusted God would see us through, but there really weren’t answers, just faith.”
The couple shared that as horrible as the circumstances felt at the time, they also could not help but feel God’s hand present at every turn. Instances such as… the doctor pointing out the timing of them bringing him in, to the top rated surgeon assigned to his case and the elation of the surgical team as they revealed - ‘They got it all.’ Jyriaun’s parents feel strongly in their faith in God and prayer.
“I never thought cancer, until he was going in to have the tumor removed,” Chambers said.
“The doctors discussed with us that they thought Jyriaun had another tumor in his kidney (which turned out to be fluid/blockage in the kidney),” he added. “My first thought was Relay For Life… We instantly were hoping we had a cancer survivor.”
As the couple stayed bedside by their infant in Oakland, word slowly spread throughout the communities of Oakdale and Manteca, of the family’s misfortune. Small groups began collecting money and sending cards to the family to help with expenses. Text messages and voicemails flooded their phones and prayer chains extended across the United States.
“Our trust in God is our number one focus,” Mrs. Chambers said. “We thank Him every day for all that He has given us and gives to us every day. One of the surgeons assigned to his (Jyriaun’s) case, happens to be one of the best in the world for this type of surgery. People travel from all over the world to have him operate on them. To have him assigned to our case and them have them come out and say they got it all… That’s God’s work.
“The support from friends and family also comes from God. They have all been amazing.”
As people prayed and talked, a plan began to take shape during an Oakdale Quarterback Club meeting. A simple comment made by varsity head football coach Trent Merzon to friend Mike Stastny went from an idea to a full-fledged fundraising effort involving two towns.
“At the end of the meeting Merzon leaned over to me and said ‘We should sell shirts at the Manteca game to raise money for Jagada,” Stastny shared. “He said, ‘You know something like 2 Great Programs, 1 Great Cause.’ We just took it from there and made it happen.”
Chambers shared that when he received the call from Stastny explaining what the teams would like to do he felt a bit ‘nervous.’
“I’ve seen what Oakdale can do,” Chambers said. “But to have Manteca join in as well, that is just overwhelming.
“I mean, the simple idea of raising the kind of money they want to raise… how could it even be fathomable? Now it’s close to being a reality and it’s just crazy. I know it’s about my kid, that is the overwhelming part.”
Echoing his wife’s words of their faith in God, Chambers shared the story of first learning of the Help the Chambers Family fundraiser.
“Less than 48 hours before Stastny called me about this, we had just learned Dawn only had two sick hours (of leave) left. That’s when it got real,” the father said. “I mean I was thinking okay time to kick into gear, to take care of my family.
“When he called it was just mind boggling to me.”
Stastny still does not fully recall how he came up with the number. He shared after speaking to Merzon, he thought ‘we’ll sell 500 shirts at $20 apiece and raise $10,000.’ With plenty of fundraising under his belt he also realized it would be best to have the shirts paid for through independent donations, so as not to take from the total.
“I typed up an e-mail, went through my e-mail list, checked a list of names and within 72 hours we had enough to cover the cost of the shirts,” Stastny shared, adding that the partnership of local business Apparel Graphics made that possible through selling the shirts to them at cost.
“They’ve been an amazing help,” he said. “We gave them the things we wanted on the shirt and a basic layout, but they did the design and it looks great.”
Mike and his wife Ana both feel strongly about the need to help the Chambers family.
“Mike basically said to me, how can we look at our three healthy daughters and not help?” Mrs. Stastny shared. “How can we not do this?”
In the spirit of how they were raised, each of those three healthy daughters have also played a part in the fundraising efforts. Youngest daughter Nelly, a freshman at OHS gave input on colors and placement design with the shirt. Middle daughter Nikki, an OHS senior, has been working with her leadership group on pre-sale, as well as day of sale of the T-shirts. Eldest daughter Lauren, OHS class of 2007, has taken the efforts viral with the help of her boyfriend Justin Bochmann. Lauren developed and manages a Facebook page Help the Chambers Family, while Bochmann set up a website www.helpjagada.org.
Statsny added that between the Facebook page and the website the fundraiser just took off. Both venues offer visitors information on what the fundraiser is for and how they can help. Donations can also be made through Paypal on the website and a Tax ID number has been established for individuals making donations.
“With all that they have gone through, the last thing should have to worry about is monetary,” Mrs. Stastny stated.
“We wanted it to be a family thing,” she said of their daughters’ involvement. “We wanted our children to understand how privileged they are and not from a material standpoint.
“This has really touched us.”
The family shared that the fundraiser overall has been well received by both communities, with calls coming in from coaches and school sites throughout Manteca wanting to know how they can either get a shirt or make a donation.
“I have had people hand me a check for $100 for one shirt or say, I really don’t want the shirt just take the donation,” Stastny said.
While the efforts of the two communities may be impressive and the financial help will be tremendous for the Chambers family, it is the act of giving that has touched them most.
“I was speechless when Jagada first told me about this fundraiser,” Mrs. Chambers said. “It amazed me that this community could be so caring and giving to a family that doesn’t live in the community and that they haven’t known for many, many years. We are so appreciative and blessed.”
Pre-orders for T-shirts are being taken at Manteca High School, Oakdale High School and the Oakdale Leader. Shirts will also be available at the Manteca vs. Oakdale freshman football game Thursday night in Manteca and at the Oakdale vs. Manteca game at The Corral, Friday Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.