JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville University's men's rowing program has a new teammate in Conner Bennett. In front of family and friends, the Dolphins officially welcomed the eight year old Sunday with a Team IMPACT signing ceremony and press conference.
"Last August, I received an email asking teams if they were interested in partnering with Team Impact," said Head Coach Marci Robles. "Upon hearing what the mission of the organization is, I knew this would be a great opportunity for our team."
Team IMPACT matches children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses with local college athletic teams. The Dolphins met Conner and his family in the fall of 2015 and immediately bonded.
"This is important to us," said Chris Nichols, a sophomore on the team. "When he comes here, he puts a smile on our face. When we saw him at the hospital, he was really excited and surprised. It made us all feel really good."
Conner has a daily battle with Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID), a disorder that makes it difficult to fight off infections, and with the constant smile plastered on his face, no one would even know it.
"Conner is a bright, energetic, eight year old who loves sports, hunting and swimming," continued Robles. "Spend time with him, and you'd never know he's fighting a battle every day. This squad had a very difficult fall season. We had quite a bit of turnover and morale was low, so when I spoke with our Team Impact coordinator about Conner, I knew he'd be the perfect fit."
"His resilience and positive attitude in the face of adversity is truly inspiring, and he's someone this team needed. We've been able to hang out with Conner a few times and have had a blast. We're thrilled that we can welcome him as a member of our team today, and we look forward to spending more time with him, at practice, watching other sports teams around campus, or just hanging out in our game room. Welcome to the Pod, Conner!"