Wearing a Villanova soccer jersey, Scarlett Miller became the newest member of the women’s soccer team on Thursday, Oct. 22. Miller, a 12 year old diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, was signed by Villanova women’s soccer, thanks to the work of Team IMPACT.
Team IMPACT states on its website, “We tackle the emotional trauma and social isolation experienced by children facing serious and chronic illnesses by matching them with a college athletic team. Through our two-year therapeutic program that complements their medical treatments, children develop relationships and skills that help them complete the full circle of healing.”
Scarlett’s mom, Gabrielle, had nothing but good things to say about her family’s experience with Team IMPACT.
“Everything we have done through them has been so respectful, kind, and joyful,” she said. “I would love to give a shout out to the organization, which is a non-profit. The Philadelphia region is strong, and we want the community to know how great the group is.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, Crohn’s disease is defined as “a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes inflammation of your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. Inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease can involve different areas of the digestive tract for different people.”
Miller shared about how living with Crohn’s, “day to day is normally [about] handling the mental side of things, but then once a month I’m handling the pain side of things when I get my infusions.”
The disease affects her every day in several ways, including her energy level, iron levels and diet. She also takes medicine every day.
“There really isn’t a day where [taking medication] isn’t a part of her everyday routine,” Gabrielle shared.
The Villanova women’s soccer team has helped support Miller during her monthly infusions. For instance, Miller shared how during her last infusion, they all sent her a video wishing her luck.
Even though Miller cannot come to campus right now, she has been texting with the team.
“This has been a great distraction,” her mom said. “Normally she would be playing with her friends and doing things, and right now she can’t. Now she has 30 girls she can reach out to at any time.”
Over the past few months, Miller has joined the team for weekly Zooms. Some members of the team have come over to her house for bagels or to go to the farmer’s market and some have stopped over to play board games. Miller also plays Words with Friends with the girls on the team daily.
“I knew it the first time I met Scarlett that she was someone special,” women’s soccer head coach Chris McLain said.
He stressed the importance of Villanova’s core value of family and community.
“Any time you add someone to the club house, you want them to be able to feel like one of the family,” McLain said. “[Miller’s] personality is so big that it lights up the entire team. An incredible amount of confidence and self-awareness, it is almost as if she has been a part of this team for years. We are excited to have her join the squad. She’s family.”
The women’s soccer player who Miller has seemed to have bonded with the most is junior midfielder Reagan Smith. Miller praised Smith, raving about how great she is and how, “She checks in on me to see how my day is. She even came for my birthday and for my draft day.”
“We are so grateful to be able to work with Team IMPACT to bring Scarlett into our lives,” Smith said.
Smith also talked about how while they have made an impact in Scarlett’s life, she has also made an impact on them.
“Scarlett has been one of the best additions to our team culture,” she said. “Her infectious determined energy has restored our perspective on what it means to be a strong young woman. We are so incredibly proud of her and look forward to continuing to get to know her.”
Each team member wrote Miller a letter before her signing day, which touched on personalized points between them and Miller, who shared how, “They mentioned things in their letters that I had mentioned before that I liked. They were very personalized and thoughtful.”
Even though it has only been a few months, being paired with Villanova’s women’s soccer has made an impact on Miller, and she’s grateful for the opportunity.
“It’s special to me because when you have an illness you miss out on a lot of things that your peers get to do,” she said. “So being able to be a part of the Villanova women’s soccer team makes it that much easier.”