Softball team takes community service to the next level with Team Impact

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Florida Tech Softball added in a new bubbly five-year-old to the team.

Paula Rieber of Palm Bay was drafted to the team earlier this month through a national program Team IMPACT.

Rieber suffers from a Congenital Heart Defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot. This condition required her to have open-heart surgery just over two weeks after her birth. The condition precludes Rieber from being able to play full contact sports, but still is very active in ballet.

“As coaches, we are always looking to recruit standout players that are going to make a difference in the classroom, on the field and in the community so we spend several hours evaluating,” said head coach Val Silvestrini. “Sometimes, though, you run into kids like this young lady and after a few minutes you realize that they were meant to be a part of our softball program.”

Despite living every day facing adversity, Rieber is full of energy and enthusiasm. This enthusiasm has translated to the field, where she rallies her new teammates at practice.

“I am also considering her to be part of the coaching staff since yesterday we had a couple of kids on the field and she was having them do everything that she said. I wish I could do the same with our players,” Silvestrini said.

When asked by one of the players why Florida Tech Softball was the right team for her, Rieber’s answer was short and sweet.

“Because it is always fun,” Rieber said.

When all of the important questions had been answered, such as Rieber’s favorite movie and what snacks she plans to bring on team trips, Rieber flipped the questions to her new teammates. Among the things on her mind, what everyone’s favorite animal is and what art projects the team likes to do.

Florida Tech’s relationship with Rieber was made possible by Team IMPACT, a national organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses through the power of team. Children involved are drafted onto local college athletic teams becoming an official member of the team from Draft Day through to graduation.

Team IMPACT, according to their website, focuses on the best experience for children while also significantly impacting families, student athletes, colleges and communities. Over the next few years, their goal is to increase the number of deserving children drafted onto athletic teams on every college campus in the United States.

Rieber’s father, Donald, is hoping that this new relationship will help his daughter continue to grow.

“I just want to have her be around the players,” Mr. Rieber said. “I think it will be good for her to feel a part of something and be involved.”

“It means the world to us to have Paula and her family as a part of our family,” Silvestrini said. “One of the core values for our team is family and unity and this is a perfect example of that.”