- Associated Press - Sunday, November 1, 2015

FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) - Paisleigh Butler was drafted and became a member of the Patriots women’s soccer team Tuesday afternoon at Francis Marion University. Incredibly, it happened before she even turned 6.

The draft day was a special celebration, marking the soccer team’s official first day as a Team IMPACT partner, the second such team on the FMU campus.

Team IMPACT is a nonprofit group that connects children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses with local college athletic programs, greatly expanding their circles of support.

Paisleigh’s mom, Leighann, said that she heard about Team IMPACT through Tracey Matthews Daniel, whose son Maddox was the first to be drafted to an FMU team through the nonprofit program.

“We met Tracey at church not long after we got to Florence, and I was friends with her on Facebook and saw everything she put up about Maddox and Team IMPACT,” Butler said. “I just thought it was really awesome. I felt honored that our name was put into the pot to do it, because it is really special.”

Athletics already is a big part of the Butler family, so having Paisleigh join the team was a no-brainer.

“My girls have played soccer, and I want them to be able to look up to athletes in college and see what it is all about, the hard work and the dedication that is involved,” Butler said. “My husband and I went to Lander University, which is a small university like Francis Marion, so the atmosphere takes us back to our college days.”

Being fairly new to Florence, being part of IMPACT also has helped them meet new people.

“My husband is a football coach, so any time we can be involved with athletics, we are all about it,” Butler said. “We haven’t been in Florence that long, so we are super excited about getting involved with the Florence community.”

Paisleigh was diagnosed in 2014 with Sanfilippo Syndrome, a genetic condition that affects the body’s ability to recycle waste within cells. Butler said that while it is a part of their life, it is not the biggest part.

“We focus on the positive things,” Butler said. “She is doing really good right now, so that is what we focus on.”

During the draft day ceremony, Paisleigh was given her own FMU jerseys and signed a contract with the team. By signing the contract, she agreed to be a part of the team, coming to practices and games whenever she can, representing her teammates by wearing her team hat and shirts.

Women’s soccer coach Lindsey Morgan said she has been thrilled with her team’s response to being an IMPACT partner.

“I am so proud,” Morgan said. “I took over the program, and I knew that we would have some culture change, and I knew that can be very difficult for a lot of girls. I think that Paisleigh has really helped them, just in the short amount of time that we have known her.”

Morgan said being part of IMPACT makes a difference in many different ways, both for the team members and their young teammate.

“She has really opened up the girls’ eyes,” Morgan said. “I have seen them grow and be more interactive, getting outside their comfort zone. Not only are they helping Paisleigh, but she is impacting their lives 10 times more than they even know.”

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Information from: Morning News, https://www.scnow.com


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