Life for kids with life-threatening illnesses is not easy. So when they can step away from their diagnosis and just be kids, it can create memories that can often help them forget about their struggles.
When 10-year-old Gavin was just 4 years old, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
It's not easy for his mom to talk about it, let alone Gavin. Nearly four years of treatment sent him into remission, but in November 2014, the cancer came back.
University of California, Irvine Anteaters baseball team knows how tough it's been for Gavin.
"He's kind of like a little brother to us," said Michael Filia, UCI Anteaters outfielder.
Gavin signed his letter of intent to join the team last September — and he did it from a hospital bed at Children's Hospital of Orange County.
The Anteaters have visited Gavin when he spends months at a time in the hospital, where he's receiving chemo through a Broviac line in his chest.
"It's not that easy because sometimes, when it's like this, normally all you do is stay home and wait for days to go to the hospital," Gavin said.
But one organization — Team Impact — is connecting the strength of an entire team to make dreams come true for sick children.
"We're in this for the longer haul," said Greg Dobbs, a Team Impact West Coast ambassador and former Major League slugger.
Team Impact is a nonprofit organization with the mission to improve the quality of life for kids with chronic or life-threatening diseases through the power of an entire team.
"You see how happy he is, you see his smiles, you see him persevere through things that we can't even imagine," said John Brontsema, UCI Anteaters infielder. "That puts a lot of things into perspective."
The charity is well-known out east, but is expanding on the West Coast through hospital referrals. Gavin's story struck a chord with the organization that set him up last September for a program that's more than just a one-time experience for him and his team.
"He's setting a great example for us," Filia said. "We're really fortunate to be able to play the game, and he brings our team together more."
"Gavin, he's a leader. He's truly an inspiration and he's the biggest leader on our team," Brontsema said.
Team Impact has more than a thousand connections with sports teams across the country. For Gavin, his mom says she feels the connection much deeper.
"There's so many kids in the childhood cancer community, and you don't realize it until you're part of it," said Kim Rowe, Gavin's mother. "We see so many kids on the floor and parents being told their kids have cancer."
For the UCI Anteaters, seeing Gavin happy boosts morale and sportsmanship within the team.
"Everyone plays better, plays harder, which is something special and an effect that's really rare," Brontsema said.
TEAM IMPACT matches courageous kids with local college athletic teams — it starts with a draft and an official signing day. The child gains strength, camaraderie and support while the student athletes are taught lessons on courage, resiliency and life perspective. For more information on Team Impact, check out their website:http://www.goteamimpact.org/