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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Inspirational Profiles: Jake Olson and the Gift of Hope

  Do you ever wonder what it would be like to know nothing but a life of fighting to live?
Just over a year ago, I was introduced to the story of a remarkable young man who has had to experience this reality. And yet, he has a hope that transcends what he has gone through. A hope that is the foundation of his faith and life.
  Jake Olson was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at eight months old that threatened his eyesight. Just two months later, his left eye was removed, and he began aggressive rounds of treatment in order to save his right eye. Miraculously, the doctor's were able to do so, even though the cancer returned time and time again. Eight times to be exact. For the next twelve years, this one remaining eye helped Jake to take in the world around him. In the fall of 2009, the cancer came back again, but the doctors didn't have answers this time, and the surgery to remove his remaining eye was scheduled for a couple of months later.
 Jake's story was first featured on ESPN around that time. Then University of  Southern California coach, Pete Carroll, heard of Jake and wanted to give him his one wish: to see a live USC football game before blindness became a daily way of life. A short time before he would lose his sight, Jake got the opportunity he had always hoped for and enjoyed every minute of it, knowing that these were some of the last faces and places he would ever see.


  Because of this national exposure, and also Pete Carroll's desire to keep in touch with Jake and his family, Jake became a symbol of faith and hope to many people. When Coach Carroll became the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks a few years ago, he made certain that Jake became a part of the team's "family" of players and staff, bringing him, his parents, and his sister to many games and events.
  In 2013, ESPN did a follow-up story on Jake, updating viewers on Jake's latest adventures, which included publishing a book about his story, called Open Your Eyes, and his making his high school football team as a long snapper.

 Jake had the pleasure of joining the Seahawks at their divisional championship game  in 2014 and is continuing to impact people with his positive outlook and tremendous faith. Beyond his hopeful attitude, perhaps what makes Jake so attractive to others is his undying belief in God's plan for his life and his acceptance of his circumstances. In his book, Jake says,
 "Hope is my foundation and it helped me get through lot of dark days. Faith doesn't take away fear or remove a challenge, but faith helps you get through it. I would be lying if I said my fight didn't include moments of fear...I can't imagine living my life without being close to God. He is the reason I wake up every day with hope and confidence for what the day will bring. I know he has a plan for my life, and I know he will give me the strength to overcome any obstacles that come my way." *
 Even though he is only seventeen years old, Jake teaches us all what it means to embrace God's will for your life, even when it seems hard to do so. Sometimes, life brings us challenges that we do not expect. What we do with those challenges, though, determines who we become as a result of them. Jake admits there are times when he wishes he could see and do certain things and yet, he has seen God redeem the pain in such a way that he will tell you that his life has never been better. He has learned to be grateful for what he has been given: the ability to live - even without sight. And so, he goes out golfing; he plays football; he speaks around the country and shares his story; he studies hard at school. Jake lives a full life, however altered it has become. Jake lives a life filled with hope, and he knows that it comes from the God who loves and cares for him deeply.
 What a challenge this is to all of us when trials come our way: will we be thankful for the gift of life even in the midst of our suffering? Will we make the most of what we have been blessed with and live our lives fully? Will we be filled with  hope no matter what we go through? Jake is. We can, and should, also.


To learn more about Jake and his message of hope, visit his website at: www.openyoureyes.org.


* This book is available wherever books are sold and is copyrighted 2013.