Seated beside UConn coach Geno Auriemma at his postgame press conference on Sunday was a little girl with a sparkly gold bow atop her head and a Huskies shirt draped over her small frame. Her name is Daniela Ciriello, and she's 6 years old.
She told Auriemma her favorite food is chicken and fries and her birthday is July 1. What she didn't mention, and likely doesn't understand at her age, is that she's been diagnosed with Cooley's Anemia -- a rare genetic disorder that requires her to receive blood transfusions every three weeks.
With a nod of approval from Daniela, Auriemma began to read from a piece of paper announcing that she would be signing a National Letter of Intent to become an honorary member of the Huskies.
"Daniela's strength and perseverance make her a perfect fit for UConn women's basketball and we are so honored to have her join our community," Auriemma said.
Daniela joined UConn through Team Impact, a nonprofit that matches children with serious and chronic illness with a college team. As a member of the UConn women's basketball team she'll be able to attend practices, games, team dinners and other events. She was at First Night with the team in October.
"We're so grateful to be a part of this," senior Katie Lou Samuelson said. "...We've only hung out a few times with her and she's had such an impact on all of us, just seeing how she is every day and seeing how positive she is really makes you think about how grateful you are for things in your life. I'm so glad that we're a part of this, and I think it's such a great program. I hope every team on campus ends up doing this because what I've seen from videos and stuff it's a really amazing process to be a part of."
This article is written by Kelli Stacy from The Hartford Courant and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.