Fighting Irish Fight For Life 'signs' kids with life threatening illnesses to Notre Dame teams
National signing day is a huge deal in the world of college sports. Notre Dame has put a twist on this event through its Fighting Irish Fight For Life program that pairs children battling life threatening illnesses with Notre Dame teams for a season.
On signing day this year, 12 kids from Michiana got the chance to forget about doctors visits and treatments for a night and just had fun.
"It's awesome to be a part of the Notre Dame community. It's so much bigger than just a sport. And to be able to see that in the kids' faces when they light up when they sign their letters and when they interact with us and meet us for the first time," said Shannon Hendricks, a Notre Dame soccer player.
Fighting Irish Fight For Life is more than a one day event.
The program gives kids the opportunity to attend games and practices and just be a part of the team for the entire season.
This is 7-year-old Rudy Chapman's second year as a member of the Notre Dame hockey team.
"I got to fly on the plane with them to Minnesota and Connecticut for regionals and The Frozen Four and it was really cool," Rudy said.
Rudy is fighting Ewing's sarcoma but when he's with the hockey team, he's just one of the guys.
"I think for us, the Notre Dame hockey team has become family to our family. I really just think it means they are embracing him as a kid, but also they see him as their teammate, which is awesome," said Laura Chapman, Rudy's mom.
The program is not only special for the kids and their families, but for the Irish athletes as well.
"Football is like what I do, but this is really my passion. My passion is being able to give back and be involved in stuff like this where I can serve the community and serving at large is really what drives me and is kind of my purpose. So stuff like this, this gets me like invigorated to the highest degree," said Daelin Hayes, Notre Dame captain and defensive end.
"It means a lot, I've always watched Notre Dame football and I've always represented them. It feels amazing. I look forward to hanging out with them and it feels like it will be fun," said Pierson "JoJo" Sault, 12, who signed with Notre Dame's football and cross country teams.
Fighting Irish Fight For Life is now in its 15th year.