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When his Blue Jackets hockey career comes to an end – hopefully many, many years down the road – Zach Werenski could have a second act as a pizza delivery man.

We do know the 2023-24 Blue Jackets Community MVP and Jet’s Pizza spokesperson excelled at it at least once last year. Through his connections with the CBJ pizza partner, Werenski became familiar last season with the story of Jocelyn Green, a current sophomore at St. Francis DeSales High School in Columbus who has had quite a cancer battle the past three years.

In the lead up to last year’s Community MVP celebration, Werenski took the time to grab a couple of pizzas, some Blue Jackets merchandise and show up at Green’s house. For hours, he chatted with Jocelyn and her family, signed autographs and just felt like a member of the family.

“The night before the game, it was just like a normal afternoon after school and my mom was like, ‘I think someone is here for you.’” Jocelyn said. “It was Zach with Jet’s Pizza, and he had Blue Jackets merch and he signed a bunch of stuff for me and my family. It was just super cool.

“It’s just fun being able to be even more connected with the Blue Jackets just because they have such a great team, and the fact that Zach came, I don’t even know what to say.”

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Blue Jackets alternate captain and 2023-24 Community MVP Zach Werenski was recognized in a pregame ceremony Tuesday that featured Jocelyn Green, center, and Andee Cochren, executive director of the Blue Jackets Foundation

Those are the types of stories that have made Werenski not just a fan favorite but a two-time winner of the Community MVP honor, and he was in for a surprise last night when he was recognized by the Blue Jackets before the game. Unbeknownst to Zach, the Blue Jackets arranged for Jocelyn to present Werenski with the honor in a nod to the relationship the two have built over the past year.

“My dad told me, and I was super excited,” Jocelyn said.

“I showed her the email invitation and her face just lit up,” Green’s father, Charlie, said. “I was like, ‘Is this something you want to do?’ and she was like, ‘Yeah, I wanna go.’”

While the Greens were more than happy to come to Nationwide Arena to be part of the ceremony, Werenski was truly surprised when he saw Jocelyn on the ice before the game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

“It was awesome,” Werenski said. "I really didn’t know she was going to be there until I saw her out there and the pictures on the screen. I had a great time getting to know her and her family at her house last season. She’s such a sweet girl. Just to see her out there and give her a hug, it made the award even more than what it is.

“It’s moments like that when you see them on the ice and you realize how much of an impact they’ve had on myself. It was special for sure.”

Jocelyn’s journey with acute T-cell leukemia/lymphoma began in the summer of 2021 as she was getting ready to go into eighth grade. An active child who had always done dance and cheer, she suddenly found herself running out of breath easily with accompanying pains in her chest.

Everything reached a head three weeks into her eighth grade year at St. Paul Catholic School in the fall of 2021 when Jocelyn was at a football game and was supposed to do a move, but she just couldn’t do it.

“I was doing a halftime routine and I was supposed to do a back walkover, but I couldn’t do it because my chest hurt so bad,” she said. “Before this, my mom had taken me to the doctor three times, and they did tests on me and said I had asthma. I had already done my emergency inhaler for the day, but I just couldn’t do that halftime routine, so my mom took me to Westerville (Medical Campus), and they did a bunch of tests and X-rays and stuff and that’s when they found a mass on my chest that covered about 50 percent of my esophagus.”

From there, life for the Greens changed in an instant. She was transported immediately to Nationwide Children’s Hospital and spent 22 days in the ICU and on the hematology floor getting treatment. Jocelyn would end up missing most of her eighth grade school year because of that treatment and then a two-and-a-half stretch of chemotherapy.

It was obviously a difficult time for the Greens, but they also knew as time went on that they had truly avoided the worst of it. It helped that there were many moments of inspiration along the way, like in January 2022 when friends and neighbors organized a parade up and down Jocelyn’s street to celebrate her 14th birthday when she couldn’t leave the house.

At one point, through a family friend who knew Jocelyn’s background in cheerleading, she received an inspirational video from the spirit squad at the University of Notre Dame, who then FaceTimed her live from the sidelines of a prime-time game vs. Southern Cal.

She eventually started high school at DeSales in the fall of 2022 while still going through chemotherapy, and in September of that year, she was recognized by DeSales and Bishop Watterson students alike at a football game.

The reason? When approached by Make-A-Wish, Green considered all of her options of what she wanted to do, but in the end, the right answer was to try to help others who are going through some of the same difficulties she has. So Jocelyn decided to donate the funds to Nationwide Children’s Hospital; combined with other fundraising done by DeSales and Watterson, she was able to give over $10,000.

“When I found out I was accepted to Make-A-Wish, I had a top three of what I wanted,” she said. “It was a pool, a trip to Hawaii, or just give it away. I thought about it and I told my mom, ‘Let’s do a trip to Hawaii.’ I think she called them and told them, and then a few hours later I was like, ‘No, I can’t do that. We don’t need a trip to Hawaii. We go on vacations. We’re fine.’”

There have certainly been ups and downs, but maybe the highest high came in January when Jocelyn completed her last chemotherapy treatment and was able to ring the bell while surrounded by DeSales students, family and friends.

Jocelyn has been through things no child should have to go through, but she’s come out the other side.

“It’s been crazy, from the lowest low to the highest high,” Charlie said. “We’ve met a lot of people, be it through Nationwide, or she does a lot of stuff with Make-A-Wish as well. We’ve met a lot of families. We just feel fortunate because given the situation that we’re in, for us, it’s been a lot better outcome than others we’ve met through the process.

“When you get a diagnosis like this, we were wondering, there’s a reason for everything. We kind of think the reason is so Jocelyn can give back.”

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