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Meet 11-year-old Jack Marchetta, who inspires Niagara men's hockey

Even though he's just 11 years old, Jack Marchetta is listed as a senior on the Niagara men's hockey team's website.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — America got to meet Jack Marchetta a couple years ago, when the NBC Sunday Night Football broadcast featured his relationship with Bills' quarterback Josh Allen.

Bonded by the quarterback's relationship with Oishei Children's Hospital and Jack's hysterical, kind and thoughtful personality, Josh gravitated to Jack the same way Niagara has over the past four years.

Jack has become a vital part of the Niagara hockey team.

"His chirps have gotten better and better since the years have gone," Niagara's Director of Hockey Operations Phil Rhodes said. "I know the guys love his chirps."

"He likes to go after the goalie."

2 On Your Side's Julianne Pelusi mic'd up Jack to catch a few of those chirps to the goalie.

They included:

"I thought you were supposed to be good."

"Why do you need so much water, like you haven't even faced a shot?"

"I thought tendys were supposed to work out!"

... And a few others his mother wouldn't like for me to share in this article.

Even though he's just 11 years old, Jack is listed as a senior on the Niagara men's hockey team's website. He's been hanging around the Purple Eagles for four seasons now.

The Purple Eagles enjoy his chirps, motivational speeches, lineup announcements and french fries.

"So boys are boys. The Niagara team, they're all little kids at heart. Like they joke around with him. Some of them have kind of a little brother, big brother relationship with him," Jack's mother Colleen Marchetta said. "He'll just go sit with them (at games). They steal his french fries when he goes to the concession stand and gets food."

Rhodes added, "Jack always went and bought fries and I don't know how many he's had at the games. Probably not many."

His Niagara teammates remembered more of the fun times than the goofy times.

"It's always a good time. I think whether we're going to his house I mean, we went earlier this year, had a pool party, played football with him... It's just high energy. Everyone can kind of just relax is less loose and has fun," Niagara graduate student Jordan Wishman said.

"We went to his game, made sure we all customized shirts with his name and stuff on the back. So it was pretty fun," junior Christian Gorscak said.

But Jack hasn't always been able to play in front of his Niagara teammates.

"I play hockey and it's like, sometimes it'll get like, annoying if like can't like keep up with other kids. So, I want to like be like a normal kid who like doesn't have like, you know, like a disability, where I don't have like I like I run out of energy sooner than others," Jack said.

The Marchetta family linked up with the Eagles through Team IMPACT, a non-profit that connects kids with serious illnesses and disabilities with college sports teams.

His mother Colleen described his diagnosis: "He had a rash on his face after getting a cold when he was two. The rash never went away. Five months later, we finally got to the right doctor who diagnosed him with juvenile dermatomyositis... That very day (we) gave him his first shot of chemotherapy."

It's been nine long years in and out of Oishei Children's Hospital, but Jack is calm and collected in that space. He even interviewed with me just before another surgery on his nose.

"He has learned to work hard to overcome anything. He needs to because he had to do that at a young age, not being given a choice, and he does it with a smile on his face," Colleen said, while choking up. "And I'm so proud."

Even though there are still countless procedures and treatments to go Jack is gaining his strength, and he's back on the ice.

"It's nice to be able to like be healthy and be able to do that stuff," he said. "I'm thankful for other people that have helped me with this because it's like if it weren't for them, I probably wouldn't be here at this point."

With the care from Oishei and the help from his teammates, Jack is thriving.

"Now he gets to deal with the fun things of feeling special in a good way and being part of a team and being able to do things that maybe other kids can't do, like play hockey with, you know, division one college athlete," Colleen said."

But Niagara is getting so much more in return.

"This setup with Team IMPACT, were supposed to be the ones that are giving him a lot, but I think oddly enough, we've been the ones that gain a lot from him," Wishman said.

"What we've really been able to gain from Jack is just the perspective on what we're going through. Nothing really compares to the challenges we know he goes through."

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