Watch Jackie Hutchison on the soccer field, and you’ll see a player quietly intent on making her teammates better. A strong passer who gets the most enjoyment out of creating offensive opportunities for others, the sophomore midfielder is an integral part of a Sequoia High team that has its sights set on the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division championship.
As it turns out, Hutchison’s playing style mirrors the selfless and caring nature she displays off the field in the face of some very difficult circumstances.
Hutchison lost her father, Bob, to pancreatic cancer three years ago, when she was in seventh grade. Suddenly, she was forced to grow up much earlier than her contemporaries as she dealt with her grief.
Hutchison has been kindhearted and compassionate as her family has adjusted to its new reality. She says she takes pride in acting “almost as another parent” as the oldest sibling of Emily, 12, and Gavin, 6. And she speaks of her great respect for her mother, Mary, as she increasingly understands just how much went into her father’s care and all that entails being a single parent.
Remarkably, Hutchison, 15, has also taken her giving well beyond her San Carlos home in hopes of aiding cancer research.
A couple months after her father’s death, she started looking into cancer and why its cure has remained elusive. Then she reached out to her father’s doctor, George Fisher, asking how she could make a difference.
Last summer, through Fisher’s help, Hutchison got a six-week internship at Stanford. For the first half, she worked at the Cancer Institute. She helped raise awareness for the California Cancer Research Act, a statewide ballot initiative that promises to deliver $855 million per year for research through a tobacco tax, and she sat in on lab meetings to assess what treatments would be best for specific patients.
Then she spent her final three weeks working in stem cell research. She analyzed the lab results of mice genes to determine whether chemotherapy or radiation had a better success rate at quelling breast cancer.
“I saw I have the chance to help,” said Hutchison, who also participates in the annual Relay for Life fundraiser/celebration at the Carlmont High track, an American Cancer Society event her family began attending when her father was still alive. “I learned a lot. I just wanted to give back and see what it’s like to be a doctor in that situation.”
Hutchison, who hopes to return to Stanford this summer to do more stem cell research, said she needed to act after seeing her father battle his cancer for roughly 18 months before succumbing at 52.
“When it was him and I saw how much he suffered from it, it made me want to do something about it … just so no one else has to lose an important member of their family at a young age,” she said. “I think through his passing, it allowed me to take something good away and help others in cancer research.”
Wise beyond her years, Hutchison carries a 3.8 GPA and plays two varsity sports while balancing her enhanced responsibilities at home.
When the Sequoia soccer team takes the field at El Camino today, Hutchison will be thinking about involving all her teammates – “knowing that the ball is in good hands with them and that they know what to do with it.”
Hutchison said chemistry and teamwork have been critical components of a team that is 5-1 in PAL Ocean Division games, right on the heels of 6-0 Hillsdale.
“We all have a lot of trust in each other,” said Hutchison, who was a varsity starter in soccer and softball as a freshman. “We decided at the beginning of the season this will be our year, and we all agreed to put full effort to take the league this year.”
Cherokees coach Melissa Schmidt said Hutchison -- whom she called “a playmaker” and “a workhorse” – has been a difference-maker in not only facilitating the offense but in midfield defense, thanks to her strong ball-winning ability.
But Schmidt does have one request for her sophomore midfielder.
“We’re trying to get her to shoot more,” the coach said, “because she’s got a heckuva shot.”
Too unselfish? If only there were more Jackie Hutchisons.