Six-year-old Rosie Colucci has undergone nearly a dozen surgeries, spent countless nights in a hospital room, and has lived a childhood far different than the norm due to a condition called neurofibromatosis. It’s a disorder that causes nerve tissue to grow tumors, and in the case of Rosie, it has resulted in inoperable brain cancer.
But despite these issues, Rosie carries a charismatic and bubbly attitude, earning her the nickname “Rosie the Rock Star.”
For nearly three years, Rosie has been attending North Central College women’s lacrosse and soccer games, and has been an uplifting spirit to the teams.
“Because I’m strong, brave and courageous,” said Rosie. “I fight cancer and say, ‘I’m going to kick your butt.’”
Rosie and her family make the drive from Palantine to see every game from the stands at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium. But for a recent home lacrosse game, Rosie was more than just a spectator—she was a part of the team.
Rosie had her own uniform set and stood among the team on the sidelines during the game.
“They gave her a special stick, and she got her uniform just like [the players on the team] and a little skirt so she’s thrilled,” said Rosie’s mother, JoAnne.
The team’s relationship with Rosie is made possible by a non-profit organization called Friends of Jaclyn, which helps children with pediatric brain tumors connect with high school or college sports teams.
“We just try to tell her that we’re here for her, no matter what’s going on,” said North Central College lacrosse player, Natalie Vivacqua. “We don’t focus on [her being sick]. We just treat her like every other kid. She’s part of the team.”
In turn, Rosie has become a super fan. She spends time before each season getting acquainted with the team’s new players.
“It’s funny because she goes on [North Central College’s] website and she goes down the roster and looks at all their pictures,” said JoAnne. “She wants to know who she’s going to be meeting and know their name, so it’s really cute.”
Even after tough losses, Rosie uses her story to help morale.
“I spread hope, love and joy,” said Rosie.
With around 40 surrogate big sisters between the two teams, there’s a lot of hope, love and joy to go around.
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