Childhood illness can be devastating, one organization aims to bring normalcy to what can be a stressful situation for parents and children fighting sometimes life threatening diseases. Team Impact is that organization. One young girl is benefiting, as are hundreds of young people.
7-year-old Ava Girolimetti loves to cook and eat. She says she has a collection of fancy hats with flowers.
“Let’s see one two three four five six seven i think”
Ava also loves soccer, sometimes she likes to remind her older sister Sophia how it’s played.
Outwardly, Ava’s a pretty normal little girl but she was diagnosed with leukemia last spring. Her mom Allison says that was difficult.
“Everything moved so quickly from when she was diagnosed we went to the hospital on Saturday and didn’t come home for 6 weeks.”
Doctors started chemotherapy immediately and Ava was sidelined her from her favorite sport. Her father Marc says she has to take medications all the time.
“At home we have scheduled medications that she has to take on a near daily basis.”
Ava may have been too sick to play soccer but that doesn’t mean she can’t be part of a team. Both she and her sister Sophia are part of the Babson College Women’s soccer team through a program called Team Impact. Ava’s mom Allison says it’s made a difference.
“For her it’s been a great experience because she plays soccer herself and she’s not able to play this season.”
Based in Massachusetts, Team Impact matches college sports teams with critically or chronically ill children all over the country. Erika Loomer with Team Impact says they are busy.
“We are currently in 45 states, 427 campuses with 30,000 student athletes.”
Here in Massachusetts Team Impact currently has 118 children like Ava matched with all kinds of college teams. Loomer says its helps children like Ava.
“You don’t see that battle on her face, when she’s around these student athletes.”
Babson junior Colleen Beggan says she understands Ava’s battle better than most.
“My sister was also a soccer player and she had cancer in her ribs.”
Being at Babson takes on a special meaning for Ava’s parents Marc and Allison, it’s where they went to college and fell in love. Now they see their daughter finding a safe haven from her disease here. Marc says it’s important.
“It means everything to see your child sort of in a much more natural environment with the understanding that without her having cancer we probably wouldn’t be having this experience.”
Being part of the team allows Ava to be a fun, curious, and outgoing 7-year-old. Her big sister Sophia says she’s is pretty good on the soccer field too,
“She’s very, very good. She’s awesome.”
Her family says she has a long way to go with treatment but believe the future is bright.