Elijah Vargas
The family of Elijah Vargas, from left, brother Israel, mother Amanda, dad Julio and brother Noah, joins him after he was made a member of the Santa Barbara High baseball team during an “adoption” ceremony on Thursday night. (Paul deBruynkops photo)

Elijah Vargas is a charming and funny 7-year-old boy who loves Hawaiian-style pizza and baseball.

Since the Summer of 2017, none of that has changed except the Vargas family found itself blindsided by life-altering news. Elijah was diagnosed with an inoperable cerebellum brain tumor.

Living with a brain tumor isn’t easy, but creating moments of oblivion is essential to keeping a positive state of mind. That’s where the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation (FoJ) comes in. FoJ aims to improve the quality of life for children battling pediatric brain tumors and other childhood cancers by pairing them with local teams, clubs and community groups who make them an honorary team member.

On Thursday, the youngest son of Amanda and Julio Vargas became Friends of Jaclyn Foundation’s 867th official adoption. He joined the Santa Barbara High baseball team.

“We are the first school or athletic program in Santa Barbara to do this, but I don’t wanna be the last,” said Santa Barbara High baseball coach Steve Schuck. “There are so many kids that would benefit from this, and it doesn’t cost anything. With the love that there is in the community, there is just so much that we could give.”

Cooach Steve Schuck and Elijah

Santa Barbara baseball coach Steve Schuck puts a Dons jersey on new team member Elijah Vargas. (Paul deBruynkops photo)

Coach Schuck reached out to the local Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (TBC) in hopes of finding a family to help. The Vargas family is heavily involved in the TBC and was subsequently connected to coach Schuck, who then connected them to FoJ.

The Vargas family is over the moon about Elijah joining the Dons, the defending Channel League champions.

Elijah’s older brother, Israel, a senior at SBHS, said the team “adopting him and taking him in as their family is simply amazing.”

Elijah’s mom, Amanda, was brought to tears of joy during the ceremony.

“I didn’t even think that this was a possibility and it just brings normalcy to Eli and to our family, that he can go to the game and go to the practices. It means everything to us,” she said.

Elijah received his official game jersey and hat. Afterward, he got the celebrity treatment as he was busy taking pictures with his adoring fans.

“I’m excited!” he said about joining the Dons.

The adoption was pure bliss for Elijah, who couldn’t hold his smile back as he chowed down on the ceremonial cake.

Coach Schuck wants to see the adoption process grow.

“Hopefully it starts something here that all the other schools, clubs, activities and sports can take and they can do this too,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s a massive chain reaction, and we are talking about 10 or 15 adoptions. Hopefully, this ceremony will ignite other organizations in Santa Barbara to reach out to FoJ to adopt a child and make a lasting impact on them for the rest of their life.”