Rider Swimming and Diving drafts 9-year-old as honorary team member
On March 27, the Rider University Swimming and Diving team welcomed the newest member to its team, 9-year-old Ray Fantel.
Ray’s journey to becoming a Bronc began through Team Impact, a national nonprofit that connects children facing serious and chronic illnesses with local college athletic teams.
Ray, whose mobility is assisted through the use of a wheelchair, was born with a condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1, a neuromuscular disease characterized by loss of motor neurons and progressive muscle deterioration.
“Ray stole the show with his big personality, took over the press conference and really seemed to enjoy meeting the team,” says Head Coach Stephen Fletcher. “We're certain this is the start of a great relationship between Ray and our teams, and we're grateful to have Ray on the roster for 2018!”
At the signing event, Ray was joined by Fletcher, Assistant Coach Shannon Daly and the majority of the men’s and women’s teams, in addition to his mother and father, Marcy and Matt, and brother Ethan.
On Ray’s website, his mom recalls the day in 2009 when she and her husband received the news of Ray’s diagnosis. “We love our boys more than anything,” she writes. “As we digested Ray’s diagnosis over the next few months, we vowed to do everything possible for him — to give him the best chance and to make sure he enjoyed life no matter what the length of time he has.”
Since then, the family has pursued Ray's dream of going places and seeing the world. He has taken in a Yankees game in the Bronx, swam with dolphins in Florida, flew in a helicopter around New York City and witnessed a performance of his favorite Broadway play, Hamilton, among many other adventures. At home, he loves to play board games and watch movies.
“In many respects, we are very blessed; we have learned to be thankful for what we have,” Marcy writes on Ray’s website. “Ethan and Ray love our special experiences.”
Across the nation, Team IMPACT harnesses the power of teamwork by matching courageous kids with college athletic teams. Team IMPACT children are drafted onto local college athletic teams and become an official member of the team for the duration of their treatment and beyond. They attend practices, games and other events as an honorary member of the team.
In welcoming Ray to the team, Swimming and Diving join the Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams as part of the Rider University Team IMPACT family.