5-year-old battling leukemia gets chance of a lifetime

Zach Dacy’s favorite football player is Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.

Zach, who lives in Harvard and will turn 6 on Saturday, is battling leukemia. In September 2012, he got to go meet both Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Matthews through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Zach said he likes Matthews “because he sacks a lot of quarterbacks.”


On Sept. 19, Zach got his chance to be like Matthews and sack a quarterback.

Both of Zach’s parents, Joe and Jen, are Northern Illinois alumni. During the summer, Joe contacted the NIU athletic department about his family attending a game at Huskie Stadium. Joe’s email made it’s way to Kyle Skarb, a former Huskies fullback, who’s the athletic department’s assistant athletic director of development. Skarb offered the family tickets to the season home opener against Eastern Illinois, which they attended, and asked Joe if his family would like to attend a practice.

The Dacy family, including Zach’s 7-year-old brother, Coen, attended practice Sept. 19, two days before the EIU game, and there was a surprise at the end.

NIU coach Rod Carey talked to Joe and Jen for a little bit during practice, and during the conversation, Zach wanting to “sack” NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch came up.

Carey made it happen. After practice, Zach got in his stance, went around NIU tackle Tyler Loos and running back Cameron Stingily, and was able to knock Lynch to the ground.

“He’s going through a lot right now, I think that’s the least we could do,” Lynch said. “We made his day and he gave me a pretty good shot.”

The players lifted Zach up after his sack.

“They lifted me up real high,” he said.

The whole team cheered after it was over, and Zach and Coen got to be in the middle of the Huskies end-of-practice chant. NIU director of football operations Matt Lipman caught it all on video, and it’s posted on YouTube.

“To see [the team] and how they’re interacting, I know they’re young kids. Them taking the time...they wanted to do it,” Jen Dacy said. “It’s not liked they looked like, ‘Oh great. We’ve got to do this.’ They we’re excited to do it, and that meant a lot.”

Zach goes to Loyola University Medical Center every four weeks to get chemotherapy treatment, and gets chemo in his spine every three months. Every night, he wakes up to take a chemotherapy pill.

Jen said Zach, who was diagnosed with leukemia in May 2011, is scheduled to be finished with treatment on Aug. 23, 2014.

Jen said seeing her son be able to sack Lynch was an emotional experience for her and her husband.

“It’s one of those things, to have graduated from NIU and having to spend all the time at NIU and then, it’s like going home and they treated you so well,” she said. “It meant a lot to us.”

Carey said his players really embraced Zach’s “sack” of Lynch.

“It gives us perspective,” Carey said. “We coach a game, we play a game, you guys report on a game. And there are bigger things in life than just this game.”

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