It was a warm spring Saturday afternoon, perfect for a game of softball. The FSU Rams were playing the first game of a doubleheader against Fitchburg State and the score was tied 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth.
FSU scored at the last second and won the first game.
Lauren Salisbury, junior and outfielder, credits this sudden turnaround to 13-year-old Lindsey Franco’s arrival.
Franco is the newest addition to the FSU softball team and according to Head Coach Larry Miller, “She has been our good-luck charm. We have won every game since she joined.”
Lindsey joined the team on April 6 through Boston-based organization Team IMPACT, that pairs chronically ill children with collegiate teams.
She was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome, a genetic condition which is characterized by medical problems such as cardiovascular disease and developmental delays. According to Franco’s mother, Susan, she has difficulty with fine motor skills such as handwriting.
Susan found the organization on Facebook through a post another mom with a child with Williams Syndrome had made. “It was an appealing program. We are a sports family, so I wanted Lindsey to get involved with a team.”
She applied online and days later, she heard from Elizabeth Higgins, relationship manager at Team IMPACT. Higgins said the organization worked with collegiate teams close to her home in Holliston to match her with the Rams.
Susan said the family did not have a choice regarding the sport, but she specifically requested no ice hockey due to Lindsey’s older brother, who plays the sport.
“She spends way too much time in the rink,” she said.
Aside from being a part of the softball team, Lindsey also competes in gymnastics, basketball and takes part in the Special Olympics, but since the event is short lived, Susan wanted her to make friends closer to home.
Miller, who has been coaching at FSU for four years, already knew about the organization and was immediately interested in signing up the softball team.
On April 6, Draft Day was held to welcome Lindsey. Susan said, “There was a big conference table where she signed a letter of intent. There was food and cake. Channel 5 was there, so Lindsey got to see herself on T.V. She’s been feeling important lately.”
As a member of the team, Lindsey attends home games, sits in the dugout, attends team dinners and sometimes practices. She even helped decorate posters for senior day.
Lindsey said, “I love everything about this. The dinners are my favorite. I love sitting with my teammates.”
Her teammates and coach define Lindsey as a goofball. “She dances and cheers inside the dugout,” Miller said.
Senior and outfielder Dayna Marchant said Franco once showed off her favorite dance, “The Monkey,” and it has become a tradition to dance together in the dugout.
“She’s adorable. I feel so fortunate to be a part of this! It’s great for our program and it feels great to make an impact,” Marchant added.
Team IMPACT organized four athletes, juniors Eleanor Callery and Salisbury and sophomores Mcayla Moody and Kristen Dick, to welcome Franco and communicate with her parents about any upcoming team events.
Callery, the team’s catcher, recalled the first time they met Franco. “She came to dinner with us and was joking around and having fun with everyone. … She fit right in.”
Miller said, “Bringing Lindsey into the culture of college sports makes it more than just softball – it’s about making an impact.”