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A 9-year-old has an entire team of support—like a troop of older sisters—as she completes cancer treatments.

“We were super excited to have Hallie Johnson join our team this year through (the program) Team IMPACT,” said UWO Women’s Soccer Head Coach Erin Coppernoll. “This was such a great way to connect and be real with someone whose life we can learn from. Hallie will forever remind us to be young and live each day to the fullest.”

Hallie Johnson

Team IMPACT matches children facing serious illness and disability with college sports teams, creating a long-term, life-changing experience for all involved.

The experience meant as much to the UWO soccer players as it did to Hallie.

Caylee Fry, a UWO senior from Loganville, majoring in physical education, said she typically connects well with children and it was no different with Hallie. She said leukemia does not define Hallie as a person and she showed it does not let it slow her down.

“Working with Hallie has given our team another focus and a reminder that there is more to our team than just soccer,” Fry said. “We can provide memories and friendships for a lifetime for a little girl who may just need another spark in her life to help her get through a chapter in her life where she needs it most. I just hope she knows that as much joy that our team is able to provide for her, she is also providing that same joy for us. Hallie’s fight is our fight, we are all in this together.”

Delaney Sponholz, a sophomore nursing major from Fond du Lac, said Johnson’s presence has helped her put into perspective greater issues outside of school and soccer.

“I’m happy we can do this (Team IMPACT) for her, but I don’t think she knows just how much she is positively impacting our lives,” Sponholz said. “From an outsider perspective I don’t think anyone would be able to tell she is battling cancer. She radiates positivity, which is truly inspiring. I know for me; it helps me to be a more positive uplifting person. It has been so great to have her around, and I am so happy she is loving the UWO women’s soccer team!”

Hallie Johnson (center) celebrates media day with the UWO women’s soccer team.

Lending support

Johnson was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2021. She’s completed intensive chemotherapy and currently is in a maintenance phase of treatment that includes an oral chemotherapy.

“She loves to be outside, play Legos, read, is really into Harry Potter, enjoys fruit and smoothies and couldn’t wait to be part of the team,” Coppernoll noted, adding that Hallie and her younger sister, Kinsley, and their parents, Amanda and Aaron, were able to spend some time with the team this fall, including going to get smoothies together; and having a Friday night meal at her house where they played video games and on a trampoline.

Johnson took photos with the team during a media day event and was honorary captain for several games. She had a locker in the locker room and participated in a “signing day” with the team.

Coppernoll learned about Team IMPACT early in her coaching career from a former player whose daughter was part of the program. She said the connection has been important for everyone who learns about the girl’s strength in her fight against her serious illness.

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