Immediate Release: March 24, 2011
VESTAL, N.Y. -- The Binghamton University athletics department's newly-founded 'Bearcats Buddies' program had its kick-off party at the Events Center, Thursday evening. The women's lacrosse team along with 'A Room to Heal' welcomed its first member, Rachel Polhamus, with games, lacrosse lessons and an honorary member ceremony.
Rachel, 4, was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma (eye cancer) when she was nine months old and lost her right eye at the age of two. She has been in remission since that time, going through seven cycles of chemotheraphy and radiation as well as multiple other treatments. Rachel's mom, Jane, was happy a program like Bearcats Buddies gave her family the opportunity to be apart of a team. "Rachel has never really been apart of any type of team before," Jane said. "It seemed like a great opportunity and an interesting program...the girls gave us an incredible experience today."
Following the athletics department's 'Making an Impact' mantra, interim athletic director Jim Norris was overjoyed with the women's lacrosse team. "To say that I'm incredibly proud of the team would be a gross understatement," Norris said. "Seeing the smile and excitement on Rachel's face and knowing that our student-athletes were responsible was one of the finest moments our department has had under my leadership. I'm certain the Bearcats Buddies program will be with us for a long time and I appreciate the oversight our Student Servies Area and Kim King has provided."
When Rachel and her family arrived the women's lacrosse team welcomed them with cheers, then jumped into a name game to break the ice. Assistant coach Stephanie Allen and the girls gave Rachel a lacrosse lesson, which she aced. The team made her an honorary member, donning her with a Bearcats t-shirt and a special field pass with the team photo on it. Finally, the team including head coach Tony Zostant played a riveting game of 'Heads Up, Seven Up,' after which Rachel broke the team down with a Bearcat cheer.
Kim King, Assistant Athletic Director for Leadership and Counseling, a member of the founding board was happy with the program's first event. "The kick-off party was great," King said. "Our athletes want to give back to the community because they have been given so much. I think the girls on the team had as much, if not more fun than Rachel."
Junior midfielder Allie Sabitus, whom has prior experience with a similar program, was on the Bearcats Buddies founding board and an integral part of getting the program off the ground. "I had worked at my previous school with the Friends of Jaclyn program and I wanted to start something similar here," Sabitus noted. "We are very excited to be the first team and it's a real honor for us. Rachel is great and we had a lot of fun with her today, we all believe it will be a extremely positive experience for all involved."
With the women's lacrosse team taking the reins as the introductory squad, Zostant was excited to make Rachel smile. "It was a great opportunity for the team," Zostant stated. "There was wonderful interaction between the girls and Rachel. We had a lot of energy in the room and its always a bright spot to see a little girl smile so much."
The Binghamton University athletics department, along with local non-profit 'A Room to Heal' and Colleges Against Cancer announced a new joint initiative coined 'Bearcats Buddies.' The program is designed to improve the quality of life for children diagnosed with cancer.
For more information regarding the Bearcats Buddies program please contact Kim King, Bearcat Buddies Coordinator at (607) 777-4593 or Linda Salomons, Co-Foudnder, A Room to Heal at (607) 729-3831.
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