Bellevue University’s softball team has signed its most sought-after recruit, and she’s only 7.
Abigail Harvey, who signed with the team Nov. 29 at the Hitchcock Humanities Center, was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the spine when the neural tube isn’t closed all the way.
Abigail has had 21 surgeries in her life, the most recent in early November.
But with the help of Team IMPACT, a nonprofit Boston-based organization that helps pair children who have chronic illnesses to university athletic teams, and the Bruin softball team, Abigail is learning how to cope with her illness and be part of a team.
The signing drew a crowd of around 100, and Abigail got a standing ovation after signing and singing along to the Bellevue University fight song.
Adam Harvey, Abigail’s father, said he was “amazed” at how many people attended the signing.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but that was overwhelming,” he said.
Softball coach Michala Cimino said the softball teamed jumped at the opportunity to sign Abigail.
“It’s important to realize how lucky we are in our own lives and give back,” Cimino said.
BU was contacted by Team IMPACT to see which team would sign Abigail, Cimino said. The organization bases recruits on proximity. BU was the closest university to Abigail, who’s from Plattsmouth.
“There’s a lot of college athletics (programs)who want to do this and are on waiting lists to get that done, and we just happened to be matched,” Cimino said.
Cimino said the team has already developed an inseparable bond to Abigail and her family.
“I love how gritty she is, upbeat, positive and never complains,” Cimino said. “We’re talking about a lady who’s had 21 surgeries — you would never know it. She’s brought so much to our team already.”
Adam said this experience has been life changing for the family.
“She’s averaged about three surgeries a year, and for her to be able to have another group of people who rally around her is just awesome,” he said. “She’s already developed such a bond with the girls and it’s been a great experience for her.”
With her letter of intent, Abigail will have several duties to the team: attending practices, attending team bonding days and being at the games.
“Whatever we do, she’ll be the 20th member on our team,” Cimino said.
The players, Cimino said, are embracing Abigail to the team.
“They understand the importance of giving back,” she said.
Adam said he’s excited to see Abigail grow with the team the next two years.
“I’m excited for her to be in that team atmosphere,” he said.