SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The Syracuse University Women’s Soccer program has added a very special teammate.
The team, in a partnership with Team IMPACT, was at Reynolds Elementary School in Baldwinsville Monday to announce the “signing” of Graeclin “Bean” Russo.
Graeclin tells NewsChannel 9, “I thought it was overwhelming. I feel happy and I feel like I’ve been invited in here, and I feel welcomed.”
Graeclin is 9-years-old and lives with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH), a type of cancer that can damage tissue or cause lesions to form in one or more places in the body.
She was diagnosed with the disease after her family noticed a very large bump on her head that turned out to be a tumor. The tumor was removed after a seven-hour surgery, but Graeclin is still fighting LCH.
Dana Russo, Graeclin’s Mother, tells NewsChannel 9, “No parent ever thinks they’re going to say our kid has cancer and it’s something we’re still trying to get acclimated to, and I don’t know if we ever will, but with this support of the team, Syracuse University, and Team IMPACT, we’ve been so blessed.”
The Orange learned about Graeclin’s story in August and decided to adopt her into the program.
Junior Shannon Aviza came up with the idea. “Just seeing Graelin come up I know all of us were just super emotional. Just meeting her for the first time and establishing this relationship with her and our team is just something really special.”
Head Coach Nicky Adams says, “When the going gets tough we remind ourselves what this sweet, little 9-year-old is going through and it becomes not so tough anymore.”
For the last few weeks, she has spent time with the coaches and players, attended games, and has made a deep connection with the entire Syracuse women’s soccer program.
On game days, every player can be seen wearing “Bean” on tape they have on their wrists.
Chris Russo, Graeclin’s Father, says, “Just to watch all this take place and know it’s for your daughter, not only what she’s going through but everybody else to be here to support us, it just brings tears to your eyes, like my wife is very emotional, we’re very emotional, it’s overwhelming and we’re very, very thankful.”
Team IMPACT is a national nonprofit that connects children facing serious and chronic illnesses with college athletic teams.
There have been seven Team IMPACT matches with teams at SU. They are all at varying stages of the relationship with a few more in the pipeline.
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For more local news, follow Jeff Kulikowsky on Twitter @JeffNC9