UF professor helps sick kids make ‘Gator memories’

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In one year, Tim Jacobbe saw his nephew Caleb at his best and at his worst.

In April 2005, at age 7, Caleb was diagnosed with Wilms’ tumor, a rare type of kidney cancer that affects children. The once vibrant, competitive and athletic boy from Massachusetts became sickly, weak and spent most of his days in the hospital. But during those tough times, Jacobbe also saw Caleb experience some of the best days in his life. The passionate Boston sports fan got a chance to attend Celtics, Patriots and Bruins games, meet Boston Red Sox players and throw out the first pitch at a spring training game.

“He was so weak and tired he could barely walk, but he had an amazing day,” recalled Jacobbe, a University of Florida mathematics professor. “Caleb was a phenomenal athlete, and he loved sports and athletes. He absolutely loved it.”

These are the memories that come to mind when Jacobbe thinks of his nephew, who died May 10, 2006. Now he is helping make similar sports dreams come true for sick kids in Florida through a non-profit organization called Caleb’s Pitch. Through the charity, children with life-threatening or debilitating conditions have the opportunity to interact with the various athletic teams at UF to create “Gator memories,” said Jacobbe, who is the founder and president. The experiences can include meeting with the team, getting photos and autographs and attending a sporting event.