Playing for Keeps

News Feature

News & Events

April 19, 2012
Two BSU athletic teams have new members, and each is guaranteed to give her team a boost.[br][br]The special roster additions come by way of Team IMPACT, a new non-profit organization based in Quincy that brings together college sports teams and kids with life-threatening diseases.[br][br]Wednesday, the field hockey team welcomed 8-year old [b]Nevaeh[/b] at a special Draft Day event held in the Adrian Tinsley Center. The following day at their home field, the members of the Bears softball team added to its roster [b]Hailey[/b], 6, from Middleboro.[br][br]During her draft day, Nevaeh, along with her mother, Stephanie and grandmother, Maria, were welcomed by the entire Bears' field hockey team and coach [b]Erika Smith[/b]. The team presented its new member with an official game jersey, a pink field hockey stick and a ball autographed by the team.[br][br]"I can't put into words how excited we are to have Nevaeh with our team," said Coach Smith. "We have been anxiously waiting to meet her and get to know more about her."[br][br]Nevaeh, who will join the Bears on the sidelines during the upcoming 2012 fall season, was diagnosed with Wilms' Tumor, the most common form of kidney cancer found in children, when she was just 15-months old. After the discovery she underwent surgery to have it removed. Unfortunately, during surgery, an unexpected problem meant that the kidney had to be removed.[br][br]Following her surgery, Nevaeh began radiation and chemotherapy but the treatments did not work as her doctors hoped. Her parents made the decision to stop treatment and in doing so, Nevaeh was given three months to live.[br][br]Bouncing around the second-floor conference room at her draft party, Nevaeh looked like any other excitable, youngster. She still has the tumors, but has been off treatment for more than three years; she still visits Dana-Farber every six months for checkups.[br][br]"Hearing her story is extremely moving," Smith added. "Nevaeh is an inspirational young girl who has shown tremendous courage and determination through her battle with cancer. She is an inspiration for all of us and she will be a great addition to our family."[br][br]The following day, Hailey was hitting softballs around the infield with her new teammates, after receiving a uniform and water bottle. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor (Diffuse Pontine Glioma) in December 2011. Due to the tumor being embedded in the brain tissue, it is inoperable. In order to shrink the tumor as much as possible and prolong Hailey's life she visits Dana-Farber every other Friday to receive radiation. [br][br]As she continues through treatment, Hailey will use the support and camaraderie of her teammates to keep on fighting while living life to the fullest, said softball coach [b]Lori Salvia[/b].[br] [br]"Hailey is so bright, so funny, so kind and so caring," she said. "At only 6 years old she has inspired us all to face any challenge head-on with courage and strength, which is what she does every day as she continues to battle her disease."[br][br]Director of Athletics [b]John Harper[/b] said he floated the idea of engaging with TEAM Impact and the field hockey and soccer squads jumped at the chance. "I'm just so proud of them," he said as he watched the field hockey players enjoy an indoor game with their newest teammate. "This is what a college education is supposed to be. It will be a great experience for all of them."[br][br]Bridgewater State joins the rapidly growing list of Team IMPACT school partners that among others include, Boston College, Tufts University, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Stonehill College and Massachusetts Maritime Academy.[br][br]It's such a meaningful experience for both the child and the team, said Bryan McDavitt, director of athletic outreach for TEAM Impact. (Story and photos by John Winters, G '11, with contributions from Mike Holbrook of Athletics)
Hailey warms up
Nevaeh and new friend