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Former 49ers Football Star Brent Jones Donates $10,000 So Epileptic Boy Can Buy Service Dog

By Lisa Fernandez for

Former football great Brent Jones was working up a sweat Monday morning on a LifeCycle at ClubSport in San Ramon when he picked up the paper and read about a sick boy who needs a special dog to help him with his epileptic seizures.

Brent showed his wife, Dana, the story. And shortly afterward, the retired San Francisco 49ers tight end cut a check for $10,000 so 9-year-old Louis Navin could buy a medical service dog — a brown Labrador named Button.

“I’m reading about a boy and a dog,” said Jones, a four-time Pro Bowler with three Super Bowl rings, “and the more I got into this, I thought, what an amazing kid. Then, I thought about the parents going the extra mile, literally, for their kid. There’s a family that’s doing everything in the world for their child.”

Jones’ donation floored the Navin family. Louis’ father, Tom Navin, is a San Jose police sergeant and a loyal Niners fan.

“Oh my God,” Navin said when he learned about the donation. “This is like, ‘Wow.’ ”

By Lisa Fernandez For

And the Jones donation is just one of many that began pouring in after the Mercury News profiled the struggles of the Navin family, who have been trying to raise enough money to buy a trained dog that will wear a magnetic collar on his neck and circle Louis during an epileptic seizure. The magnetic force will be transmitted to a vagus nerve stimulation generator inserted in Louis’ chest, which will send electronic messages to the boy’s brain and calm his seizures.

Until now, Louis has been sleeping with his parents, who keep the magnets by their nightstands. The dog will allow Louis to move into his own bedroom and give him more independence.

Louis is the youngest of seven children of Andi Navin, a teacher at a high school in Minden, Nev., and Tom Navin, a 25-year veteran of the San Jose

Police Department who is now the department’s chief pilot at Mineta San Jose International Airport.

Five years ago the Navins moved from Gilroy to Douglas County, Nev., where they felt the school system offered better educational care for Louis, who has a host of other medical issues. Since then, Tom Navin has driven more than 200 miles each way, twice a week, to his job at the airport.

The Navins were trying to figure out how they could afford to buy the dog in addition to providing for their other six children and Louis’ extensive medical bills when co-workers at Andi Navin’s school started a fundraising drive.

Local media in Nevada had aired stories about the Navins, which had netted the family about $2,000 last week. After the Mercury News story ran, the account for Louis swelled to more than $6,000.

But Brent and Dana Jones wanted to give the Navins the full $10,000 so that Button can come live with the family as soon as possible.

They weren’t the only ones who wanted to donate. Tom Navin said a couple who read the story online donated $3,900. And Mark Woodward, CEO of San Jose software company E2Open, contacted the Mercury News hoping to reach the Navin family: Woodward also wanted to write a check for $10,000. But his request came just a few hours after Jones had donated the full amount.

Jones left the NFL in 1998 after an 11-year career with the 49ers and now co-owns investment company Northgate Capital with former teammates
Mark Harris and Tommy Vardell. He also is on the board of directors for San Jose Sports and Entertainment Enterprises, which owns the San Jose Sharks.

Jones, a Leland High School and Santa Clara University graduate, initially didn’t want to be credited for the $10,000 check; he said he prefers to remain anonymous when he makes donations.

But he eventually decided it would be OK to share the good news, hoping the story might touch others and give them the chills, just like it gave him when he first learned about Louis’ plight.

“This dog isn’t just going to change the boy’s life,” Jones said. “It’s going to change the whole family’s.”

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