One of Illinois State softball's most valuable players this season will never throw a pitch, hit a ball or steal a base.
The softball team gave 8-year-old Coen Frambes of Fairbury an ISU welcome on Monday as she signed an official letter of intent.
“Thanks to (head) coach (Melinda) Fischer and the team for having me be part of the team,” she said while surrounded by her new teammates and alongside parents Kelly and Dave Frambes at Redbird Arena. “I am really excited. I am glad to be a Redbird. Go Redbirds.”
Coen comes to ISU through Team Impact. The Massachusetts-based nonprofit helps young children battling serious illnesses by connecting them with college teams.
Coen suffers from a rare autoimmune disease called juvenile dermatomyositis which weakens her muscles and causes rashes. There is no cure.
Mom Kelly Frambes said even though her daughter takes 18 pills daily as just one part of her treatment, the family does everything it can to help her live a normal childhood.
“We don’t put her in bubble wrap. She gets to do whatever she wants to do,” Kelly Frambes said. “We’ve had broken bones, we’ve had infections, we’ve had all kinds of things, but it doesn’t slow her down.
“She might not be as fast as some kids her own age or as big, but it definitely doesn’t slow her down.”
Her new teammates cheered as Coen officially signed the papers and donned her new Redbird jersey.
“Coen we just want to let you know no matter what you are going through, just know we will be there to pick you up and cheer you on along the way,” sophomore Spenser Strandgard said.
Fischer, who is in her 34th season as ISU's head softball coach, considers Coen a valuable part of the team as they have gotten to know her over the past few months. She said the team hopes to make as many memories for Coen as she already has for them.
“I can’t tell you what she has meant to our team, to your softball family and moving forward what she is going to continue to bring to us,” Fischer said.
Coen got to meet basketball player Keyshawn Evans, who she said was her favorite Redbird athlete.
Team Impact said it has matched more than 1,700 children with more than 500 colleges and universities since 2011.
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