Emily Sorensen is all smiles as she wears her autographed BYU batting helmet, cheering on her new team on the softball field. For her mom, Yannie Sorensen, seeing her little girl energetic and excited is a priceless gift. Emily suffers from cystic fibrosis, and since she was a young child, she has often been incredibly fatigued and down because of her disease. It's heartbreaking for a mother to watch her little girl suffer as she is hospitalized time and time again for a terrible, incurable condition.
But things are looking blue in a positive way this time, with Emily proudly sporting her blue and white BYU gear as she joins her fellow teammates to cheer them on. As an honorary member of the college softball team, she has found new family and purpose amongst her softball sisters.
Emily has endured CF since she was a young child
Emily's mom shares that her daughter has been through so much of her disease. At just 6 years old, she’s already endured multiple hospitalizations due to frequent lung infections and difficulty breathing. She had required sometimes painful treatments and a sinus surgery to manage her condition.
Team IMPACT pairs kids with sports teams
During one of Emily's hospitalizations, her mom discovered an interesting program via a Facebook post. That's when she learned about Team IMPACT, and at first, she wasn't sure what to think of it. It almost seemed too good to be true.
Team IMPACT is a program that was made possible through the charity and collaboration of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, the same drug company that makes Orkambi, a combination drug for cystic fibrosis. For the past six-years, Team IMPACT pairs kids who have either chronic disease or life-threatening illness with college sports teams. Over 1200 children have been connected with college teams from over 450 institutions in 46 states. When Yannie saw the information, she wasn't sure if it was true, and she was wary that there was a catch to this seemingly amazing program. She was doubtful, yet she sent out an application anyway. She was elated to find out that the program really was legitimate.
Emily gets drafted to her favorite college softball team
Just a few weeks after sending in the application, a letter came in the mail for Emily. At the time, she was on her way with her mom to the Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City for a check-up. That's when the Cougar softball team called them to tell Emily that they wanted to "draft" her.
It was too good to be true. Emily was already a huge fan of BYU because her grandfather works there. This was the first time Team IMPACT approached the church-owned school in Provo for such a request. Thankfully, they were very accepting and were able to pair Emily up with her favorite school.
Their "draft" to invite Emily could not have come at a better time. It was March and Emily was just about to be checked-in again for another 10-day hospitalization. Sometimes, her hospitalizations were lengthy and painful, and during this time, she and her mom were able to endure the stress by doing a little distracting research about her new team. During those 10 days in the hospital, Team IMPACT gave everything Emily had to look forward to. While looking at the team roster, they found out there was another Emily on the team too.
Emily loves being a BYU Cougar
Emily loves to be part of the team as she feels like the girls are always cheering for her too. She loves to return the favor and cheer her new sisters on as they race around the field and bat softballs against tough opponents. Emily says that despite seeing many different sports in her life, softball games are by far her favorite. She often cuddles with her stuffed mascot, Cosmo the Cougar, as she proudly watches her teammates play.
Emily has been officially made an honorary member of the BYU softball team. She has signed her name on paperwork through Team IMPACT's Cystic Fibrosis Project "Draft Day", which is sponsored by Vertex Pharmaceuticals. As part of the team, Emily has made a long-term commitment of two-years for the team. As a new member, the Cougars have already shown Emily love and support. They call each other team sisters. It's so incredibly heartwarming to see this little girl smile ear to ear as her blonde curls escape out from under her BYU helmet. Emily is so proud to be a part of such a group.
How Team IMPACT has changed Emily's life
Emily's mom believes that the team has changed a lot about Emily's life. It's really made a huge difference for her. Since she's joined the team, she knows that she can ask her new team sisters for support, especially if she's having a tough day. Whenever she feels down, she just contacts the team and asks for some positive thoughts. The girls will often come by to hang out with her and take her to the park. Recently, some of the players came to a little pool party that Emily and her mom hosted over the summer.
The team camaraderie has helped Emily endure her sometimes long and painful treatments for her condition. Her mom says that she feels an extra dose of motivation to stick with treatment, even when times get tough. It's because she knows she is doing it for the sake of her new teammates.
The BYU softball girls thank Emily for her unconditional love and support
Emily and her mom aren't the only ones benefiting from this wonderful relationship. The Cougar's team coach, Gordon Eakin, has shared that "drafting" Emily has impacted the players too. When they were first presented with the proposal to help the little girl, his team responded with a unanimous "yes' to accept Emily as their honorary teammate. One of the sophomore outfielders, Rilee Jensen, shares her experience meeting with Emily and getting to know the tough little girl. For her, it's been a blessing to have her as part of their lives. When the players have a bad day, Emily also helps them by loving them even when they don't love themselves. It seems that Emily's not the only lucky gal in this relationship. The team sisters say that it's wonderful to have such an uplifting and inspiring little girl support them as part of their team.
It's so wonderful to hear about kids who suffer from chronic conditions finding joy and community support from good people around them. Emily is no exception, and her relationship with the softball team at BYU has really turned not only her life around, but the lives of everyone involved too. It just goes to show that it's not all about the medicine or the science behind the disease. Love and support from people who care are also important for a happy and healthy life.