“Introducing #24, Ali Gilbert.”
Nine-year-old Ali Gilbert officially became a member of the Immaculata University’s women’s basketball team on Dec. 7, 2022, when she signed her Letter of Intent.
With the help of Team Impact, a non-profit organization that matches children who have been diagnosed with a life-altering condition with a local collegiate team, Ali was matched with Immaculata’s basketball team last year. She has been diagnosed with leukemia.
Surrounded by her parents and younger sister, Ali signed her Letter of Intent in Alumnae Hall, where the team plays their home games. After confetti filled the gym, the men’s basketball team and other members of the Immaculata community, including President Barbara Lettiere, congratulated her.
After her pro athlete-quality photoshoot, Ali accompanied the Mighty Macs to the women’s locker room where she was presented with her official locker, her #24 jersey, and other gifts from her new teammates.
Ali and her family then joined the team for pizza and cupcakes before she showed some great moves—and even greater smiles—on the court and participated in a team shootaround.
Since Team Impact first matched Ali with the Mighty Macs over a year ago, she and the team have become close. Ali and the players participated in an Easter egg hunt, visited a pumpkin patch, and attended her end-of-treatment party this past October. Ali also participated in a girls’ basketball camp run by the team over the summer, she attended Immaculata’s annual Block Party and several team practices, and she engaged with the team via Zoom.
According to head coach Christine Rhine, having Ali as part of the team provides perspective outside of sports, which contributes to the players’ development as student-athletes. “Ali brings out the best in our players and coaches, and we strive to emulate her strength, determination and courage every day,” she said.
“This event celebrated Ali and her heroic battle with cancer,” stated team captain Erin Kelly ’23 at the signing event. She then addressed the newest member of the team, stating: “Ali, we are super proud of you and today we celebrate your courage, determination and resilience. We welcome you and your family with open arms to our program and we could not be happier to share this experience with you.”