LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Bellarmine University Head Volleyball Coach Rick Nold signed his first player in his tenure at Bellarmine on Thursday, Sept. 22, and she won’t be eligible for another seven years. Emma Keeteran 11-year-old from Louisville, signed with the Knights through Team IMPACT, a national non-profit organization that has developed a unique multiyear program that matches children facing serious illnesses and disabilities with college athletic teams across the country.
Emma, who was born with the incurable bowel condition Hirschsprung’s Disease, was officially introduced at a “signing day” on Thursday night at Bellarmine’s Knights Hall.
By signing with the team, Emma will participate in many activities with the volleyball team including games, practices and other events. She even gets her own locker.
Emma’s mother, Amanda Keeter, said the pairing with her daughter and Bellarmine through Team Impact came about through a “child life specialist” during a monthlong stay at Nationwide Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
“During Emma’s stay, she was always up and down the whole time, but she always seemed to bounce back really quickly,” said Amanda. “So, they thought it would be a good idea to introduce her to Team IMPACT. So, we filled out an application and they paired us with Bellarmine.
Hirschsprung’s Disease is a lifelong condition, but Amanda Keeter said Emma is doing well. “She’ll have some struggles throughout her life, but she is mostly corrected through surgery. We had a year follow up this year and she looked great. She was gaining weight; she’s growing; she’s happy and healthy.”
Nold said Emma’s positive outlook is good for his team. “We want people who are going to impact our team in a positive way,” he said, “and Emma does that for us. We hope we do that for her, too.”
Hannah Brown, a senior and team captain, echoed those sentiments. “Emma helps us see the true meaning of sports,” she said. “It’s about more than what happens on the court.”
Emma’s “first match” with the team is slated for Friday, Sept. 23 when the Knights take on Austin Peay in their ASUN Conference debut.
About Team IMPACT
Team IMPACT’s unique multiyear program signs children facing serious illness and disabilities onto college athletic teams across the country. Based on a clinical model, Team IMPACT guides a symbiotic relationship between teams and children focused on socialization, empowerment, and resilience, ensuring everyone involved has the personalized game plan they need to win – effectively building confidence and independence. Founded in 2011, Team IMPACT has matched more than 2,300 children with 700+ colleges and universities in 49 states, impacting more than 60,000 student-athletes. If you know a child or team who may be interested, please visit www.teamimpact.org.