When the UConn women's basketball team plays in the Final Four Friday night, they will have a very special fan in the stands.
Daniela Ciriello, a 9-year-old from Plainville and one of the team's biggest supporters, was surprised this week with a trip to see the Huskies play in Minnesota.
For four years now, Daniela has been an honorary member of the Huskies through Team IMPACT. The nonprofit matches children who are facing serious and chronic illnesses with a college athletic team. Daniela was diagnosed at 14 months old with a rare genetic blood disorder. She requires blood transfusions every few weeks to live.
This week, Team IMPACT surprised Daniela with a trip to see UConn play in the Final Four. The players recorded a video message to surprise Daniela with the news.
"I heard Aaliyah Edwards say, 'you are coming to the final four,' and I put my head down and started screeching," said Daniela. "It's a really great opportunity."
Daniela cheered the team on at the Final Four last year and can't wait to be there again this year. She said the players are like her big sisters.
"They have had a really big impact on me," said Daniela.
The team said Daniela has impacted them, as well. The players have even gotten involved with blood drives to support her and they say that Daniela is known for her great pump-up videos.
"Daniela gives just as much to this team as they give to her," said Lynn LaRocca with Team IMPACT. "We are just lucky at Team IMPACT to be part of it and to help facilitate that along."
Daniela said that she will be cheering loudly at the game. She is attending the Final Four with her mom, Nicole Ciriello.
"We are just so excited and would have never imagined this," said Ciriello.