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  • About Jack Strickland

    Jack Strickland is a retired AP writer who was nominated by our newspaper for The Pulitzer Prize. His writing about Florida prisons, cancer victims, sports, and just plain folks is a special treasury for readers. He is active in the war against cancer. He, himself, is a survivor. As a reporter he covered many of the major stories in Florida. He lives in Gainesville where he is an advocate for cancer patients of all ages. Jack finds special joy in getting sports stars and teams involved in the care young cancer victims. He claims that the athletes benefit from the involvement as much as the patients. He says he managed to miss many tackles as a football player long ago, and learned that defeat can be temporary and serve as the foundation for success.
    Recent Florida Tales Content

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     • Day in court in Alachua County: tragedy without an end - Young father could face 48 years in prison in accident in which his 4-month-old daughter and a 6-year-old boy were killed. A day in court in Alachua County shed light on how the wheels of justice turn in this case. ...
     • Day in court in Alachua County: tragedy without an end - Young father could face 48 years in prison in accident in which his 4-month-old daughter and a 6-year-old boy were killed. A day in court in Alachua County shed light on how the wheels of justice turn in this case. ...
     • Swept up into court, the homeless lady gets a bit of justice, a taste of mercy in daily docket - Day in court puts the drama on the front burner as judge tries to sort out fates of those caught in the justice system. Multiple charges are the rule. ...
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     • Kids at hospital show No.1 Gator basketball team true courage as laughter, smiles are shared - After defeating basketball powerhouse Kentucky, the Gator basketball team took on even a more daunting challenge of fighting on behalf of kids who face life-threatening illness at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. ...
     • Capt. Reeves, trained to shoot first, ask questions later, could face prison fate worse than death - The inside story of what happened in tragic shooting in movie theatre near Tampa reveals that police officer may have regretted firing his gun. ...
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     • Many years ago, police did delay actions on an athlete, and they were right at that time - The allegations in the Jameis Winston controversy raise more questions, and bring to mind an earlier incident with another athlete in which the police did exercise discretion, to their credit. ...
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     • Football season is uproarious time for players, fans and coaches - Among so many jests, we recall famous coach Norm Van Brocklin who once said he needed a brain transplant and wanted the brain of a sportswriter because it had never been used. ...
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     • Breathless comeback, tears of joy mark Gator victory in national gymnastics championships - The University of Florida gymnastics team faced a tough battle as first event became prelude to courageous comeback for the team and their coach at the 2013 National Championships. ...

    Recent TTN News Content

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     • Women prisoners count their blessings on a tearful Thanksgiving at Lowell Prison - Visits on Thanksgiving were all too short at Lowell Prison where children were asking "Why can't I stay with Mommy?" Columnist Jack Strickland visits at Lowell and writes a riveting story about the emotions of the day as families got together all too briefly. He came away with both a feeling of sadness and of joy. ...
     • “Souls to the Polls” march re-enacts history to inspire students at FAMU to vote in the election - FAMU students recreated history on Sunday with a march to the polls to demonstrate the importance of voting and to inspire students to vote in the national election. ...
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     • Question is whether Adelson family was involved in Markel murder, and motives of the suspects - Questions remain unanswered about release of evidence and possible motives for murder - were suspects trying to extort money from Adelsons? ...
     • Small explosion causes chaos at Florida A&M University - An explosion at the FAMU campus Thursday was actually a dishwasher catching fire. However it did cause a scare among faculty, staff and students at the Presidential Dining Hall. ...
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    Jack Strickland's Florida Tales...

    Gator gym team changes sadness to a smile for cancer victims at Hope Lodge

    January 24, 2017

    Gainesville

    By Jack Strickland

    They brought hope to Hope Lodge. Last week, the number three nationally ranked Florida Gators Gymnastics Team hosted a dinner with cancer patients, their families, and caregivers. The college students were a big hit at the American Cancer Society’s Winn-Dixie Hope Lodge in Gainesville.

    For one evening, victims of cancer were able to forget about their worries. On this occasion, life-and-death struggles with medical issues took a back seat to the joys brought about by enthusiasm and inspiration radiated by the young athletes.

    he positive attitude of these champions is contagious. The room lit up when they walked in. The atmosphere became festive as everyone became acquainted. It was almost as if residents caught the spirit of championships and became infected with determination and a purpose to overcome any and all challenges.

    This Gators gymnastics team is made up of outstanding athletes from all over America and Canada. Each person is individually accomplished in her own right. Only the cream of the crop earns the opportunity to wear the orange and blue leotard for the University of Florida.

    This team seems to have an all-for-one, one-for-all philosophy. They support each other. The team is a blend of freshmen, upperclassmen, trainers, managers, coaches and a support staff. They all have each other’s back.  Everyone plays a key role and is a vital cog in the team’s journey to be the best it can be. They are clearly on the road toward championships. 

    The team approach that produces All Americans and championships at Florida works for cancer teams, too.

    The Gators seemed to have a big impact at Hope Lodge. The cancer patients and their support teams seemed to relate to the Gator team approach. Everyone appeared to draw inspiration and enthusiasm from these dynamic young people.

    Two Lady Gators accepted a tough challenge. Grace and Casey McLaughlin are a dynamic duo who are accomplished at mastering tough obstacles. They are roommates and share the same last name but are not related.

    They swung into action when they learned one cancer victim had declined to come join the dinner activities. The 76-year-old out-patient said she didn’t feel presentable. She is battling breast cancer and said she thinks her surgery, chemo, and radiation treatments have left her ugly and something less than a woman. She had isolated herself in a darkened area adjacent to the dining room. She planned to eat alone in isolation with her daughter who is her caregiver.

    Casey and Grace joined her. The dismal atmosphere in the room changed almost immediately. The ravages caused by cancer seemed to lose importance. The depressing atmosphere that surrounds cancer lost its hold on the evening. The focus was on making the best of life and the future. Soon laughter rang out as experiences were shared.

    The patient told of raising seven kids. Five boys and two girls. Raising boys is a snap, she said. Raising girls is a “real bitch.” Her daughter confirmed that it’s true and said she was a problem child who tested her mother’s limits.

    The lady who did not feel presentable and did not want to be seen, suddenly seemed to feel beautiful in the presence of the gymnasts. She asked to be photographed with them. They appeared to make her feel very special and determined to win her fight against her dreaded disease.

    That’s what the Florida Gymnastics Team does. They are winners who inspire everywhere they go. These champions also seemed to draw inspiration from those locked in tough battles with cancer.  Several say they look forward to visiting Hope Lodge every year.

    On Friday night, the Florida Gymnastics Team hosts Auburn in a special meet. They call it “The Link To Pink.” Everyone wears pink in an effort to draw attention to the fight against breast cancer and to support the dedicated effort to find a cure.

    Gators All American Alex McMurtry says it is her favorite meet of the year. A packed O’Dome wearing pink will be cheering them on. Usually the Gators post some of their better scores of the year at “The Link To Pink”.

    Those fighting tough battles with cancer at Hope Lodge will be cheering and pulling for the Gators. And, they may play a small part in inspiring championship performances by this outstanding team.