A very special person has joined the West Virginia University Swimming & Diving team, as 5-year-old Wyatt Dewitt has been drafted to the Mountaineers. As part of a collaboration with TeamIMPACT, a national nonprofit that connects children facing serious and chronic illness with local college athletic teams, young Parker signed his name on an official certificate to join the squad. Wyatt was born with Spina Bifida and Chiari 2 Malfunction, but is set on attending all the home meets and practices as his schedule permits, cheering on the WVU aquatic athletes.
His mother, Netty Parker, told local news media, “It’s an amazing opportunity for Wyatt to do something that he may not otherwise get the chance to experience being part of a sports team or later on being part of a college or university sports team.
“He does not have control of the use of his legs, from his mid-thigh down, He uses all of his upper body strength to control his lower legs, and then Chiari 2 malformation is, he has basically a herniation of his brain stem,” said Netty.
As to how the connection between Wyatt and the team was made, WVU Head Coach Vic Riggs told SwimSwam this week that WVU Outreach Coordinator Donnie Tucker “approached me last year to see if our program would be interested in working with TeamIMPACT. After that I spoke with the organization we created a leadership team of 4 swimmers to coordinate with Wyatt and his family.”
Of the relationship forming between the team and the Dewitt family, Riggs said, “Having Wyatt on the deck is a pure joy. Seeing his face light up last weekend for draft day was something special. I am sure he adds motivation but I think the real benefit is just knowing that we as a team are having a positive impact on Wyatt’s life. Seeing Wyatt each time brings a special joy to our program and we are very blessed to have him as a member of our program.”
WVU sophomore Ryan Kelly agrees. “I volunteered to help out with Team IMPACT the moment I heard about what it would entail. Wyatt is the sweetest, most joyful little man I have ever met. I feel so lucky to play a role in showing him how accepted he is on this team, and how happy we are now that he is a part of this mountaineer family. It’s impossible not to smile when you’re around him because of his joyful energy that he shares so freely. I’m always looking forward to the next time we have him in Morgantown so we can show him how appreciated he is.”
Sam Spall, Mid-Atlantic Relationship Manager for Team IMPACT told SwimSwam that, in his experience, “swim teams always do an outstanding job of embracing the program and the families they are matched with” through the TeamIMPACT program.
Both the men’s and women’s WVU squads will soon head to Texas for the Big 12 Championships, which begin on February 21st.