North Central College - Naperville, IL

Rosie outlook for soccer and lacrosse

The women’s soccer and lacrosse teams are receiving inspiration and motivation from an unlikely source: 6-year-old Rosie Colucci. Spirited and vivacious, Rosie has been attending soccer and lacrosse games for nearly two years while coping with treatments for brain cancer and neurofibromatosis, a serious disorder which initiates tumor growth anywhere in or on the nerves of the body.

The two North Central teams, both coached by Jenni Kapanen, adopted her through an organization called Friends of Jaclyn (FOJ) Foundation. The organization pairs children who have cancer with high school or collegiate sports teams that adopt them.

Rosie was first connected to the athletes when a North Central Group Process class, which requires students to work in teams to plan and hold fund-raising activities, chose to hold an event for Rosie. “Friends of Jaclyn called me and asked if we wanted to continue the relationship,” explains Natalie Vivaqua ’10, who plays lacrosse as a North Central graduate student and is a day porter in maintenance. “She was only 4 when we first met her but she was just so fun.” The teams and coach Kapanen decided wholeheartedly to proceed with the “adoption” after talking about the emotional risks of the relationship.

Over the last two years, Rosie’s family has driven from Palatine for nearly all the home soccer and lacrosse games. Rosie is assigned a locker among team members and they’ve held parties with her to celebrate special occasions. The student-athletes held a fund-raiser for a dance marathon event at Children’s Memorial Hospital and collected $750 in three days.

Yet the women feel they’ve gained far more than they’ve given to Rosie, who calls them with chirpy cell phone messages. “It’s brought us closer together as a team,” says Amy Frazzini ’12, who plays on both the soccer and lacrosse teams. “We’ll be down after a loss but then she’ll do something funny on the sideline and it keeps us positive. She puts everything in perspective for us.”

The year’s theme chosen by the teams is “We Play for Rosie” and the women enjoyed a “Rosie the Rock Star” day at one of the soccer games. And at the end of the soccer and lacrosse seasons, one student-athlete is now the proud recipient of the “Rosie Award” to recognize leadership, loyalty and passion for the game.