Date December 8, 2016
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Twelve-year-old Rhode Islander commits to Brown lacrosse team

While many kids can only dream of landing a spot on a top-ranked college sports team, middle-schooler Nicholas Cioe made his wish a reality with the help of the nonprofit Team Impact.

Nicholas Cioe giving high-fives
Cranston, R.I., native Nicholas Cioe, officially joins the roster of Brown's lacrosse team at a signing ceremony held on Wednesday, Dec. 7. Christopher Humm / Brown Athletics

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In a signing ceremony at Pizzitola Sports Center on Wednesday, Dec. 7, the Brown University men’s lacrosse team welcomed its newest recruit as 12-year-old Cranston, R.I., native Nicholas Cioe inked his signature on a letter of intent to play for the Bears.

The connection between Cioe, who has both mitochondrial disease and a type of cerebral palsy, and Brown lacrosse was arranged through the nonprofit Team Impact. He was joined by his parents, Laura and Kevin, and his new teammates, as he became the youngest signed player to ever set foot in the locker room, where the ceremony took place.

The excitement was palpable.

“Nicholas is as tough as can be, and we’re so proud to have him as a member of our team,” said Alphonse Lucchese, of Sudbury, Mass., a Brown senior and attackman.

The day started at the Western Hills Middle School in Cranston, when Nick and his parents were picked up by several members of the Brown lacrosse team. The bus arrived at the Pizzitola Sports Center in the afternoon, where head coach Mike Daly and Bruno, the Brown mascot, greeted Cioe upon arrival.

Lucchese helped to connect the lacrosse team with Team Impact, a nonprofit that works to improve quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses via team-based support networks.

“Nicholas brings such incredible energy and enthusiasm every single day he visits campus and spends time with our team,” Lucchese said. “Most days he comes straight from physical therapy, but this is something you wouldn’t even notice watching Nicholas because of the genuine excitement and positivity he carries every day.”

Cioe joins a roster of more than three dozen players on a team that fell just two victories short of an NCAA national championship last spring. Daly noted that Cioe has been attending team events for more than a month and that even before signing his letter of intent, he felt like a member of the team.

“This is about as special a day as we can have,” Daly said at the ceremony. “Working with Team Impact is far more important than anything we’re doing with our lacrosse team. Team Impact is what I envision as our job, and I welcome Nicholas to the Brown community.” 

Cioe will imbue lessons of “toughness” to his teammates, Daly said. Mitochondrial disease results from the failure of the mitochondria in cells, which provide the vast majority of the energy needed to sustain life and support organ function. Symptoms include poor growth, muscle weakness and more. Cioe is also affected by seizures, muscle spasms and temperature instability and uses a wheelchair as needed.

Lucchese added that Cioe adds strength and character to the lacrosse roster.

“Having Nicholas as a member of our team will make us all better teammates, better lacrosse players, and most importantly, better men,” Lucchese said. “Each practice, each lift, each film session is an opportunity that he looks forward to as the best part of his day, and we must gain that same perspective on life — that it really doesn’t get any better than suiting up and competing with your brothers.”

Cioe officially became a Brown Bear after receiving his jersey and locker at the ceremony. After signing a few autographs, he shared his excitement about joining such an accomplished squad in an interview with ABC 6 News.

“They’ve been talking really nice to me,” he said, “and I love it.”

A team biography from Brown Athletics included the following:

“Nicholas’s favorite number is 21, and his favorite color is bright blue. He loves to play and watch sports, play on his PlayStation, swim, ride his scooter, go camping, kayaking and cook. His favorite singer is Adam Levine, and he is a big fan of Maroon 5. His athletic idols include Gronk, Tom Brady, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, Tuukka Rask and Gordon Ramsey. He loves to eat steak and any form of potatoes. He enjoys watching ‘Master Chef,’ ‘American Ninja Warrior,’ ‘The Voice,’ ‘America’s Got Talent,’ ‘Home Alone,’ ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ and ‘Elf.’ The family also has many pets. Fenway is a five-month-old puppy that is being trained to be Nicholas’s service dog. They also have an eight-year-old dog named Max, two cats, Lady and Hazel, a bunny named Sasha and two fish!”

The 2016-17 men’s lacrosse season starts on Sunday, Feb. 19, as the Bears take on Quinnipiac.