More Than A Game: Rams Make Day of Cystic Fibrosis Patient Luke Giuffrida
RIDGEWAY – The Suffolk men’s basketball team officially introduced the newest member of its squad — seven-year-old Luke Giuffrida — with a press conference Thursday at the Ridgeway Gymnasium.
In front of a crowd of about 40 people, Giuffrida took to the podium to sign his letter of intent. He had a big smile when he was given an SU baseball cap, and an even bigger grin when he shot around with the team after.
In interviews after the press conference, Giuffrida said that basketball was his favorite sport, and that the Rams’ 6-foot-5 sophomore center, Matt Duquette, was his favorite player.
It was a special day for Giuffrida, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis two years ago. A patient at Children’s Hospital, Giuffrida and his family worked with Team IMPACT – an organization that pairs chronically and terminally ill children with college teams across the country – to match up with the men’s basketball team.
Team IMPACT, with 617 children matched with 295 schools across 42 states, has had a far-reaching impact on both the children and the organizations.
For the children, they form bonds with the student athletes that allow them to look to them as comrades – friends.
But as Rams’ captain Adam Chick explains, the team can learn life lessons and more about resiliency from the partnership.
“All the things he’s been through, all the hardship he’s been through, it’s more than just a game at that point,” said Chick. “You’re playing for him, you’re playing for his family … it’s more than just a game; it’s playing for him. Luke’s a great kid, so I’m glad I’m playing for him.”
Giuffrida has been with the team for a few weeks, through both the good and the bad. But throughout, he’s always made them smile.
As head coach Adam Nelson explained in one anecdote, the Rams lost to Mount Ida on Valentine’s Day on a buzzer-beating shot. The mood after was somber in the locker room, but when Giuffrida gave each member of the team a Valentine, the mood quickly picked up.
“From a locker room that was so down,” said Nelson, “for a bunch of guys – including myself – to get Valentines from Luke was a really, really cool experience. We appreciated that and it made everybody smile.”
Overall, the whole event ran without a hitch. For Suffolk’s Lauren McCart and Team IMPACT’s Mary Welker, their hard work paid off.
“To know that you can put a smile on the face of someone who doesn’t have a lot to smile about, particularly after a day of treatments … to be able to facilitate it, it’s a wonderful feeling,” said Welker.
For Sherry Giuffrida, Luke’s mother, she said it was special to see the Rams serve as role models for Luke and for Team IMPACT to set it all up.
“I’m really thrilled that Team IMPACT could provide this,” she said. “Children’s Hospital: I thank them more than a million times for getting us involved with Team IMPACT, who set us up with this awesome opportunity.”