Seven-year-old Sophia Bell, of Lynnville-Sully, was all smiles as she signed a letter of intent as Central College Softball’s newest team member during an inspirational Team IMPACT Draft Day celebration.
Bell is one of 30,000 patients in the United States living with cystic fibrosis, a disease predominantly diagnosed in children by the age of two. It is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time.
Team IMPACT is a national nonprofit that connects children facing serious and chronic illnesses with local college athletic teams to promote life-changing outcomes. Since 2011, the organization has matched more than 1,900 children with more than 600 colleges and universities in 48 states, reaching over 55,000 participating student-athletes.
Bell, her mother Vicky and her brother Jacob were introduced by Head Coach Alicia O’Brien and teammate Lexi DeJong during the celebration on Nov. 4.
“I’m very excited for her to join our team to see what we’re all about,” said DeJong. “I think that Sophia joining our team will have a very positive impact on not only her but us as well.”
So far, Bell has participated in team practices, a Halloween bash on campus and a study table to work on homework with teammates. O’Brien says they plan on having Bell throw the first pitch and be introduced with the team for their season opener, among other activities and events.
“I think it’s going to help her build some self-confidence,” said Vicky Bell. “It’s great that she gets to be part of the team, have fun and interact with the girls. We’re excited to watch her grow.”
Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a global biotechnology company that invests in scientific innovation to develop medicines for people with serious diseases, sponsors Draft Day celebrations like Sophia Bell’s to help spread awareness of the disease.