Olivet College is a Division III school about 30 minutes south of Lansing.
Just over 1,000 students attend the school; 600 of them play for the 24 varsity sports.
At first glance, three of them might look like they don’t belong.
“He loves it, he’s just one of the guys,” Samantha Jones, Ayden’s mom said. “There’s a height difference obviously.”
Ayden Jones, Lianna Shearer, and Vincent Gentile. All three are linked together by challenges.
Not in sports, but in life.
Ayden, Lianna, and Vincent battle cancer.
“She is actually still in chemotherapy, so it’s still present,” Christina Shearer, Lianna’s mom said. “It probably will never be gone but it is stable right now.”
Team IMPACT is an organization that takes children struggling with life threatening illnesses, and pairs them with college sports teams.
“Being part of the team was a big thing for him like wow, really, like I get to do that,” Christine Gentile, Vincent’s mom, said.
They get their own signing day, just like one of the players.
“She loved it, she loved the cameras being there, she thought she was famous,” Christina Shearer said.
And for Ayden, he joined more than just a sports team.
“It’s kind of like playing with nicer kids because every boy at school is mean to me,” Ayden Jones said.
“He’s been having a lot of bullying issues at school right now,” Samantha Jones said. “It meant a lot to him when he came home from school the other day having a bullying issue and he immediately wanted to video chat them
“They don’t make fun of my clothing they don’t say mean things to me, they’re more better of a friend,” Ayden said.
They may know a lot about sports, but this is an opportunity to learn more about life.
“He’s been around a group of guys that are really willing to work hard and with the hard work rate and having Ayden on the team I think that’s really boosted his morale and our morale and I think it’s really important that he’s here,” Olivet senior men’s soccer player, Denver Bonkowski, said.
All three of them are currently cancer-free, and they have been medically cleared for low-impact sports.