Sicilia, an 6 year old from Chelmsford, MA was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) at age 2. Like many ALL patients, Sicilia received an initial stage of intensive treatment that lasted for 1 month, after which time she went into remission. Following standard treatment procedures, this intensive stage is followed by nine to twelve months of steroids and more chemotherapy. The last stage is a maintenance phase that also lasts up to two or three years involving on-going tests, treatments and hospital visits. As is typical with this disease, the lengthy treatment period included many trips into Boston where Sicilia was treated at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
After a member of the Dana-Farber team recommended reaching out to Team IMPACT, Sicilia was matched with the UMass Lowell softball team and was drafted at River View Field, home to the lady River Hawks. Prior to their August Draft Day, Head Coach Sean Cotter and player Brianna Mahoney took Sicilia's parents out to dinner to kick off the relationship and learn more about Sicilia's journey. The two came away from the meal with a better understanding of exactly what Sicilia had endured over the past few years. Cotter and Mahoney also gained insights to the collective set of challenges that Sicilia and many children with ALL contend with and how they are impacted physically, socially, emotionally, and psychologically.
As for why Sicilia got involved with Team IMPACT, Sicilia's mother Carissa noted, "When they come out of treatment they are very mature on one level, but because of how much time they spend alone in hospitals, they are behind in a social sense. Their skills in terms of team-building and interacting well with people aren't as advanced as their peers. I think there are a lot of really great things about Team IMPACT that help them get past that hurdle of being post-treatment and not knowing how to get back into life."
When Draft Day arrived, the River Hawks set the field for a dramatic 'under-the-lights' type of effect. With the PA announcer in the booth and the team on the field, Sicilia ran enthusiastically onto the field under a tunnel of softball bats when her name was announced loudly over the big speakers. Sicilia was greeted on the field by 'Rowdy' the River Hawk mascot, the players, and the coaching staff. As part of the Draft Day ceremony Sicilia was given a swag-pack of official team apparel so that she can properly represent the lady River Hawks. After the formal ceremony was winding down, Sicilia and a few of her new big sisters partook in a friendly dance competition with the rest of the team rooting them on. After having endured a few years of highly structured and intensive treatment in a highly sterile clinical setting it was great to see young Sicilia with a big smile on her face just dancing in the dirt.
Since being drafted this summer, Sicilia and her teammates have done quite a lot together off the field. They have gone to the movies together, the team threw her a surprise birthday party, they've been trick-or-treating together and they also attended her Taekwondo belt presentation. The Lady River Hawks also featured Sicilia with the rest of her teammates in the official team photo used for the athletic department media guide. When asked if he has seen any changes in Sicilia's personality based on the interaction with the team both the on and off the field, Sicilia's dad noted that, "Since Sicilia got drafted and we connected with the team she has become more extroverted because the girls are catering to her more than even we anticipated."
With a strong relationship already developed for months now and the UMass Lowell softball season still to follow this spring, we anticipate many more exciting experiences for Sicilia and her fellow River Hawks in the coming months.