On Thursday, Jan. 15 the VCU lacrosse team got a little bigger.
The Rams and women’s lacrosse head coach Jen O’Brien signed 9-year-old Makayla Richard through the Team IMPACT program. Makayla has a chromosomal deficiency because of a chromosome 17 deletion, known as Smith Magenis Syndrome (SMS). Diagnosed at birth with SMS, she signed a National Letter of Intent to join the team this spring while having her sister and parents there to cheer her on. Makayla’s mother, Shannon Richard, is a VCU alumna and played on the soccer team.
Makayla is able to have this amazing opportunity through Team IMPACT, a nonprofit established in 2011 whose mission is to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illness through the power of team. The children become official members of the team starting on Draft Day and ending at graduation. Team IMPACT envisions a future where children facing hardships can have access to a team-based support system in hopes of improving their quality of life and to bring in extra laughter and love. They also wish to provide team-based organizations an easy way to reach out to the children of their community. IMPACT has already brought joy to 400 children and more than 10,000 student athletes.
“We certainly love signing days like this, it certainly brings our department together. It brings a new person into the family,” VCU Director of Athletics Ed McLaughlin said. “It’s really about learning courage and what courage looks like and certainly real courage looks like Makayla Richard.”
This is the third time in the 2014-15 season that VCU has partnered with Team IMPACT. Last fall, VCU’s men’s basketball team welcomed 17-year-old center Morgan Vega, who has battled serious, lifelong health issues as a result of cerebral palsy, onto the squad, and the women’s field hockey team welcomed four-year-old Lauryn Lewis, who nine months prior was diagnosed with Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALK+).
When the women’s lacrosse season starts this spring, Makayla will join her teammates on the sidelines at Cary Street Field.