PEMBROKE, N.H. (AP) - The Southern New Hampshire University women’s soccer team will feature an extra player at home games this season, and her name is Katie Chase.
No, she won’t be playing when SNHU kicks off its season with a home game next Friday against Mercy College. Instead, after fighting a genetic disorder her whole life, the 12-year-old student at Three Rivers School in Pembroke was selected from a spring camp program and will teach something beyond offense and defense, while gaining something invaluable in the process.
Chase will inspire through her resiliency, after rebounding from surgeries, cancer and a transplant, all stemming from a disease called Alagille syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects major organs.
In turn, she’ll receive the benefits learned when joining a college sports program, namely competitiveness, strength and, most important, the camaraderie that may last a lifetime.
Chase was introduced to SNHU staff and the media on Thursday, when she signed her official letter of intent.
“I was really excited and really happy,” Chase said Friday by phone. “I was wicked surprised.”
Chase has been a fighter her whole life. She had a liver transplant at 3 years old. Over the next two years, she suffered from cancer and underwent a pair of brain surgeries. She may one day need another transplant because the medication she’s been taking since her liver transplant affects her kidneys.
“It’s a lifelong disease,” said Katie’s mother, Bethany Chase-Reynolds. “But she’s awesome now. She is a very resilient kid and she’s doing great.”
Three of Katie’s four brothers play soccer, as does one of her two sisters. Katie plays in the Suncook Youth Soccer League. As her mother said, “When she was not in the hospital, she was on a soccer field.”
Her path to college soccer began in April at Camp Sunshine on Sebago Lake in Maine, where she and others who had undergone organ transplant surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital were specially invited.
From there, the family was introduced to Team Impact, a national nonprofit based in Boston that connects seriously or chronically ill children with local college sports teams. An application was submitted, and Katie was chosen in June.
“We talked to the coordinator about family and interests,” Bethany said, “and they match you up with a local college team. It’s for kids who would benefit from role models.”
Katie already had plenty of role models and a deep connection to SNHU. A brother played his high school championship game last season at the college and his soccer-playing sister played on a club team there as well.
In fact, Kyla Chase now plays for the Pembroke Academy girls’ soccer team, and Katie and her family were getting ready to attend Kyla’s opening game Friday afternoon.
“I always follow in my sister’s footsteps and stuff,” Katie said.
Plus, with the family’s connection to the soccer community, the family already knew some of the SNHU players.
“It was already a perfect fit,” Bethany said, adding, “She’s resilient and takes what she is handed and just kind of goes with it.”
Information from: Concord Monitor, http://www.concordmonitor.com
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