EUGENE, Ore. – As 13-year-old Faith Gill sat up on the podium to sign with Oregon Acrobatics and Tumbling, she finally felt like she belonged.
"It felt official that I am very special," Faith said.
It hasn't always been that way. A few years ago, Faith was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. An illness that affects the stomach and digestive system.
"It was just awful, awful because I was in so much pain," Faith said.
Faith has endured weight loss, even extreme fatigue.
"She's been on six different medications so far," said Faith's mother, Jennifer Gill. " I can't even count how many times have been hospitalized. She's had three different surgeries."
Faith also has trouble with any type of physical activity.
"It makes me feel like an outcast a little bit and it makes me feel depressed," Faith said.
Worst of all there is no cure.
"The hardest part is feeling helpless as a parent," Jennifer said.
But for Faith and her family, helplessness turned to promise.
"There's a young girl that has been drafted onto the University of Oregon Volleyball team," Jennifer said. "I connected with her mom who told me about Team Impact and all the good that they're doing with kids and chronic illnesses."
With the help of Team Impact, a non-profit organization that connects college sports teams and kids with chronic illnesses, Faith was paired with Oregon Acrobatics and Tumbling. An energetic group of girls with a contagious confidence. They signed Faith to be a part of the team.
"At first she was so quiet and reserved," junior Katie Bachman said. "You know just seeing her that happy and coming out of her shell to become a part of this team was so special for us to see."
The team even dedicated their first home meet to Faith.
"We do a run around the mat before we start and obviously, she was a little bit nervous but myself and our assistant coach Taylor ended up walking her out," head coach Keenyn Won said. "She was just as excited to be on the floor."
For Faith, signing to be part of the team was more than just putting pen to paper.
"I want to tell other people that if you're in a bad time, just go over that bump," Faith said. "Things will hopefully get better."
As her name implies, it was a symbol of hope.
"It's really helped turned her around," Jennifer said. "Our daughter is back."
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