The Uconn Women’s basketball team will take on the University of Arizona Friday night in the Final Four in San Antonio Texas and the Huskies will have a very special fan in the stands.
The team gave one little girl from Southington a big surprise.
Through a Zoom call, the team told Daniela Ciriello of Southington that she was going to Texas.
“We love you so much, we wanted to let you know you’re flying out here on Thursday so you can be at the game on Friday,” UConn guard Evina Westbrook said.
Get Connecticut local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Connecticut newsletters.
It was the surprise of a lifetime for Ciriello.
“I cannot believe I’m going to see them in Texas play,” Daniela said. “What was going through my mind was just crazy. It was like a roller coaster in there.”
The trip is made possible thanks to UConn and Team IMPACT - an organization that connects children dealing with serious and chronic illnesses to college athletic teams.
But Daniela’s rare blood disorder, which requires blood transfusions every three weeks, doesn’t slow her down when it comes to hanging with the team.
"Make sure you get your stretches in, we want you doing cartwheels and splits,” Westbrook told Daniela on the Zoom call.
She is now an official member of the Uconn Huskies Women’s Basketball Team.
“The girls are good girls. They’re good role models. They’re good people, so she gets a lot from that,” said Daniela’s mom, Nicole Ciriello. “She loves to feel like she’s a part of this thing that’s so much bigger than her, bigger than us. And it’s just an escape from our reality.”
So when the Huskies secured their spot in the Final Four, it was a no-brainer to have Daniela there to support her teammates.
“It was just all forward ahead,” said Lynn LaRocca, from Team IMPACT. “We can make this happen, we want to make the magic happen and we know that Daniela is going to cheer and scream, and oh my gosh you’re going to hear her through your TVs.”
And if the team makes it to the National Championship, Daniela and her mom will be there in the stands cheering them on.
“I know they can win because they work hard,” said Daniela. “They practice, they do as good as they can, they put their effort they do so much, and then -- I just know they can do it.”
If you know a child facing a serious or chronic illness and you think they would benefit from a relationship like Daniela has with the Huskies, click here.