KOKOMO, Ind. — The most popular member of the Indiana University Kokomo soccer team will never score in a game, defend the goal, or even take the field for a match.
But Hope Satterfield means more to them than any win or loss.
“Hope brings out the best in us,” said Karlie Kellett, defender on the team. “We’re always doing things for her, and with her, and we’re always thinking about her. She’s just part of our team family now.”
Hope, daughter of Jerry and Julie Satterfield of Kokomo, recently signed on with the Cougars as part of Team Impact, a national program that pairs children diagnosed with a serious or chronic illness with a college athletic team. The goal is tackling the social and emotional isolation they often experience because of their illness.
Coach Terry Stewart said his team gets more out of their relationship with Hope than they could ever give her.
“In the 12 years I’ve been coaching, this is already the most valuable and most rewarding process I’ve gone through,” he said. “We get to see a young girl grow, and we are privileged to be part of that process. We get to help when times are hard. I go home and I’m so excited to talk about it. I just feel so proud of the ladies for getting involved and wanting to help someone who needs to laugh and giggle. Watching them with Hope makes me proud to be their coach.”
While Hope is in the life skills class at her school, and is a Daisy Girl Scout, her cerebral palsy and other serious health concerns mean she misses out on activities other families take for granted.
“It’s hard for Hope to make friends, or do things other children do,” Julie Satterfield said. “She will be 6 in December, and she’s been invited to one birthday party, ever. I’m tired of her being on the sidelines of stuff. I want her to get involved.”
She’s been part of the team since their first meeting, which was a family dinner followed by pumpkin carving. Then, she attended a home game to sign her letter to be part of the team, where it was obvious from her giggles and delighted squeals that she was having a great time.
“When Hope smiles, it is the cutest thing in the world,” said Coach Stewart. “It pretty much just melts you instantly. I had expected a bit of a learning curve with how to interact with her, but it was easy. You could tell everybody was getting the most out of it they could.”
He credited Matt Howard, IU Kokomo’s baseball coach, for recommending his team to partner with Hope, adding that her brother, Thomas, is signing through Team Impact to be part of the baseball team. Thomas, a third grader, also has cerebral palsy.
When Hope spent Halloween in the hospital, team members attended the Girl Scout trunk or treat for her and connected via video on their phones so she could experience it virtually. Plus, gave her a spa pampering day after she was released from the hospital.
They call her and send videos after home games to keep her in the loop on how the team did.
“I love seeing her interact with the girls, and them giving her attention,” Julie Satterfield said. “It means she has people who care about her other than us. It’s her way of having friends.”
Kerenza Kent, also a defender, said having Hope on the team is more than a service project.
“She’s part of our family,” Kent said. “She gives us a reason to want to do better. It’s eye-opening to have someone to work for, and to do our best for.”
During practices early in the season, the team selected five words or phrases to define the season — Family. No regrets. Gratitude. Dedication. Positivity.
And now they’ve added one more.
“It created a common theme, before we even kicked the ball,” said Stewart. “The name ‘Hope’ is a powerful name. It definitely fits her, and it’s good for our team.”