Tonawanda News — When Ryan Osborn was diagnosed with cancer at age 10, he had to fight the urge to waste away on the couch.
Osborn had Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a rare disease that is believed to arise from disturbances in regulation of the immune system, and it was hard not to feel sorry for himself; that is until he found football and Tyvaier Jones.
“Tyvaier was a very close friend of mine,” Osborn said. “We had a lot in common. We were both teenage boys going through the treatment, and a lot of what I do today is driven my him. My experiences are altered by the idea of knowing I had a great friend who didn’t make it to experience it himself.”
Jones died in 2009 after going through chemotherapy with Osborne for about a year, and ever since then Ryan and his family have celebrated Tyvaier’s life by participating in the annual Hospice Memorial Walk. Osborn was joined by 11 members of the North Tonawanda football team, NT coach Tony Truilizio and members of the NT community on Sunday at Sable Park in Buffalo to continue the four-year tradition.
Osborn, a lineman for the Lumberjacks, got sick at the most inopportune time: the first year he was eligible to play football. He was looking forward to getting out on the field because he had been too big to play pee wee.
After waiting so long to join his friends on the field, it was tough to watch from the sidelines.
“I was really looking forward to it because I was too big of a kid to play on little league,” he said. “During the treatment you’re so sick, the coaches were really great and teammates were really great — I still came to some practices — but I couldn’t really participate.
“Finally when I got off treatment I was a mess. I was 6-foot and 280 pounds of just fat and sick. It wasn’t pretty. Then gradually, with the help of my teammates and through sports, the recovery was sped up by all the athletics I do — weight room, basketball, football, track and wrestling.”
Though Tyvaier lost his battle with Hepatoblastoma (liver cancer), his impact on Osborn has created a special bond in the Lumberjacks’ locker room.
In his second year as coach of the Jacks, Truilizio said that it’s been a joy to watch Osborn’s effect on the team on and off the field.
“I think it’s amazing, as a coach, to see a young man who is a quiet leader but at the same time must mean a ton to his teammates that they’re willing to support him in his cause,” Truilizio said. “That leadership, his personality and strong character is rubbing off on the team. As a coach I see that kind of stuff and I absolutely love it. It’s cool that the kids are teaching the kids, so to speak.”
Osborn said Truilizio’s compassion and genuine affection for his players has brought the Jacks closer together.
“This is the second straight year coach Truilizio has come to the walk with me. He pushes it on the team,” Osborn said. “He sent out six mass messages out to the team this year asking them to come out and support me. He’s in the weight room all the time asking me how I’m doing. He makes it a point to be a part of his players’ life, almost like he is a second father.”
Members of the Jacks that joined Osborn on the walk were Ian Gilhousen, Jake Ferry, Sam Kindron, Douglas George, Chase Gauda, Kevin Idziak, Justin Restorff, Taylor Mellott, Zach and Bobby Beasock.
Osborn said that he likes to do the walk because it offers some closure. Plus it’s nice to know that there are people out there that are always there for him.
“I feel it’s a special day where I can go and celebrate Tyvaier and his memory,” he said. “I do a ton of stuff in his name but I feel it’s a special day to celebrate his memory. My teammates help me out because, I don’t know of other football programs — I know everyone says we have a family on the football team, but for us it’s kind of beat into us. … It’s nice to know I have a bunch of guys that are willing to drop everything to come and support me.”Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.