After UConn womenâ€™s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma wrapped up his postgame press conference following Sundayâ€™s season-opening game, UConnâ€™s players and assistants made their way into the interview room to join him for a special ceremony.
Six-year-old Daniela Ciriello of Plainville was diagnosed with Cooleyâ€™s Anemia - a genetic blood disorder - in 2017. She gets blood transfusions every three weeks.
On Sunday, she sat next to Auriemma and signed a letter of intent. The ceremony was set up by Team Impact, a nonprofit that connects children facing serious and chronic illnesses with local college athletic teams.
â€śIt is something that you canâ€™t even put into words,â€ť an emotional Katie Lou Samuelson said. â€śJust being able to have that impact by having her as a part of our team is something that all of us will remember forever. They always talk about how we will have an impact on her, but I think she is having just as much of an impact on all of us by making us appreciate everything in life.
â€śShe is bringing us energy. She is the sparks in the room when she comes and sees us. There is never one moment where she lets herself go down. She is always that positive person with us. I am excited to continuously have her with us throughout the season. I hope every sports team at UConn ends up doing it, because it is really worth it.
â€śShe was at First Night with us. â€śShe has been to a few practices, and I think the game was really fun for her today. Weâ€™re hoping she is around a lot more.â€ť
Besides practices and games, Daniela will attend team dinners and other team events.
â€śSheâ€™s only 6-years-old and I feel like she has more bravery in her than all of us,â€ť UConn senior Napheesa Collier said. â€śShe does it with a smile on her face. She is the happiest little girl ever. She is really strong, and I know no matter what she goes through, she will pull through.â€ť