CHARLOTTESVILLE — The University of Virginia women’s soccer team gained a new teammate Friday evening: 8-year-old Krislynn Eccles, of Waynesboro.
After connecting with Krislynn this summer through Team IMPACT, Virginia coach Steve Swanson and his soccer team had an initial conversation with the Hugh K. Cassell Elementary School student, “and immediately we fell in love with her and with her family.”
Team IMPACT is a national nonprofit that connects children with chronic illnesses with local athletic teams.
Krislynn, who is in remission after a battle with a stage IV Wilms tumor, came to Charlottesville to tour UVa and meet the soccer team.
“So we’re excited to make it official and she’s part of our team,” said Swanson.
Swanson said that Krislynn has attended games and practices, and she will be welcome to continue to do so after Friday night’s signing — as much as her schedule will allow.
“We want her [here] as much as possible,” Swanson said. “As much as we can, we want her as a part of our team.”
Swanson said his and the team’s relationship with Krislynn “is extraordinary.”
“We love having her around,” he said.
Swanson’s team includes 26 players and more than four staff members.
“She’s just a lovely person, and we feel very fortunate to have someone like her on our team,” Swanson said.
Krislynn always has a smile on her face, according to Swanson, “and a twinkle in her eye. I think every person would be inspired by her.”
Krislynn has enabled the UVa women’s soccer team to step outside of its world of competition and goals, “and to see someone like Krislynn tackle her challenges, it’s just inspiring to all of us,” Swanson said.
He added that he does not think she realizes “she’s already made a significant impact on our team.”
“We’re overwhelmed and grateful for Krislynn to join the soccer team and have this whole team of sisters,” said her mother, Jennifer Eccles.
After a diagnosis of stage 4 Wilms tumor in October 2015, Eccles said that Krislynn relapsed after treatment, underwent a stem cell transplant two years ago and has since been in remission.
However, because of chemotherapy, Krislynn has only one functioning kidney. She has chronic kidney disease and is awaiting a kidney transplant.
“We’re hoping that will get her into adulthood,” Eccles said.
Her bone marrow has suffered, and her body is prone to infections and illness, but, Eccles said, her immune system is not compromised.
In the meantime, the UVa women’s soccer team is a great distraction for Krislynn, she said, as is “just being a part of something bigger.”
“In her mind, they are her sisters. You can’t tell her any different,” Eccles said.
Krislynn is one of eight children adopted and fostered by Eric and Jennifer Eccles, and the family is grateful for the women’s soccer team and Team IMPACT’s support.
“I’m so excited,” Krislynn said Friday on her way to sign with the team.
She said she just became interested in soccer, especially the role of the goalkeeper.
“I just like that we get to kick around the balls,” Krislynn said.
She never imagined she would have the opportunity to sign with the Virginia women’s soccer team.
“I feel happy,” Krislynn said about being with her soccer sisters.