The Illinois State Softball team signed a very special new recruit Monday, March 25. What’s special about this new recruit? Well, she’s an eight-year-old girl from Fairbury, Illinois, with a heart of gold and a passion for softball.
Coen Frambes signed an official letter of intent on Monday night next to her parents, Kelly and Dave Frambes, Head Coach Melinda Fischer and her newest teammates. “I can’t tell you what she has meant to our team, to our softball family and moving forward, what she is going to continue to bring to us,” Fischer said.
Coen was welcomed with open arms and, more importantly, a pizza party with Reggie Redbird, a photo booth and a dance party. That wasn’t all for Coen, as she got to meet her alltime favorite Redbird athlete, Keyshawn Evans, a senior guard on ISU’s basketball team. Coen got to sit right next to Keyshawn as she signed her name to become a Redbird. “It was a unique situation and I’m so happy that I got to meet her,” Evans said. “I hope I get to hang out with her again.” Evans says he plans to be in attendance for every one of Coen’s games.
The newest Redbird came to ISU through an organization called “Team IMPACT,” a non-profit based in Massachusetts that allows children with serious illnesses to connect with college teams and follow their dreams. Team IMPACT has matched more than 1,700 children to more than 500 college athletic teams in 49 states. Coen was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease juvenile dermatomyositis, a disease that causes skin rashes and muscle weakness which, unfortunately, has no cure.
“I can think that I’ve had a bad day, or that I’m tired, or something didn’t go the way I wanted to and then I kind of sit back and think of what her life is like taking the medication she takes and she doesn’t complain about it, ever, and so I think that if she can live that way, it kind of inspires me, and other people, to do exactly the same thing” Coen’s mother, Kelly Frambes, said. “It just puts everything into perspective; that she can do everything with a smile, and so the little things that you deal with on a daily basis probably aren’t as big as you think they are.”
Coen has taken this disability and knocked it right into left field as she remains just as happy and positive as can be. Nothing can slow Coen down, not even a few broken bones or infections. One of the many special things about Team IMPACT is that the family gets to choose what collegiate teams they would like to work with. With both of Coen’s parents being alumni of ISU, her brother attending ISU and their regular attendance of basketball and football games, it was a no brainer to pick ISU as their collegiate team.
“One of the things that we always kind of knew was a perk about ISU athletics is that the athletes, really, are extremely personable,” Kelly Frambes said. Kelly says that her family has always been impacted by the basketball players that come out onto the court to play with the kids after the games and that those memories have meant a lot to Coen. “I don’t even really know if they realize that something that little has such a big impact on kids,” Kelly said.
After growing up with two brothers, Coen knew it would be fun to join the all-girls softball team and really bond with all of the girls in and out of practice. Lastly, Coen has played boys and girls club softball for a few years, and her favorite position to play is first base, so it’s safe to say she knows her way around the diamond. Now that Coen is officially a Redbird, that means she gets to attend all home games, practices, team dinners and more that the team has in store for the season.
As Coen gets to interact with all her new teammates, she’s making memories of a lifetime and proving that she isn’t letting her disease hold her back. Since her signing, Coen has attended several practices and says her favorite part is getting to hang out with all the girls. During practice, Coen gets to play catch with the team, participate in drills and hit a few balls around. Coen even got to bring a friend during her first practice.
Kelly says that being around all the girls and getting to be included in everything has already impacted Coen so much. “I don’t think we could’ve picked better role models for a girl than the girl’s softball team because they’re just such great kids,” Kelly said. Fischer says this special year for ISU softball has already made a lasting impact on all of the players. “We can only hope that we can bring her half as many memories that she’s given us so far,” Fischer said. Coen had her first game as a Redbird on Saturday as the Redbirds hosted the University of Northern Iowa. The team is excited to have her cheering them on from the bench and Coen is just as excited to make her MVP debut. Coen may not steal any bases this season, but she’s already stolen all of ISU’s heart.