As the Ithaca College field hockey team starts off its season this fall, the players have a new teammate cheering them on. The Bombers recently “adopted” Nora Zelko, a 3-year-old battling cancer.
Nora and the team were paired through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, an organization that connects children with pediatric cancer with high school and collegiate sports teams in order to provide them with love, support and friendship. Nora has stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer commonly found in the adrenal glands.
Head coach Kaitlyn Wahila reached out to the foundation after she saw colleagues from other colleges adopt younger children with cancer. She thought it would be something her team would enjoy.
On August 17, the first full day of preseason, the team met Nora and her family — older brother Jackson and mom Ashley Bailey — and officially “adopted” her as part of the team. The day started out with Bailey telling the team about Nora’s journey with cancer. The team showed Nora her personalized locker in the locker room, equipped with her own field hockey stick signed by the team and a backpack for her first year of preschool. Then they went onto the field and played games like duck-duck-goose and red light, green light.