“She has a smile on her face all the time, all the time,” says Deanna Pucillo, describing her 16-year-old daughter, Bella, who excels at puzzles, especially those depicting Disney scenes and the characters she loves. 

“Minnie, Mickey, Donald and Pluto,” adds Bella.

“She has some sensory issues, she’s intellectually disabled and she has epilepsy,” explains Deanna.  “She has uncontrolled epilepsy.  She has seizures every night.”  Bella’s struggles and joyful spirit will now inspire a new group of friends.  She was recently drafted by the University of New Haven Women’s Field Hockey Team.  “The ceremony was so fun,” says Deanna. 

The partnership comes courtesy of Team Impact, a national non-profit connecting kids facing serious or chronic illnesses with local collegiate athletic teams resulting in life-long bonds.  “When Bella broke her ankle they made a whole video for her to get well,” says Deanna, adding that she was also touched at a bowling party, held shortly after her daughter partnered with the team.  “When I was at the bowling alley watching her be accepted by all these girls and they’re high five-ing and cheering her on, it just brought so much warmth to my heart and tears to my eyes.”

The whole family has been invited to accompany the team to games and events.  It’s a mutually beneficial experience as Bella finds support and motivates others with her strength and positivity.  “Friendship and fun,” says Deanna who is grateful for the genuine, meaningful relationships her daughter is building with members of the team.  “They’re so accepting.  To see that other side is touching and overwhelming.”

Click here to learn more about Team Impact.