By Anaridis Rodriguez

FOXBORO (CBS) – Dressed in her Syracuse best, little Maddy Hertweck lights up when you ask her what she loves most about being part of the university’s lacrosse team.

“Playing with them,” Maddy said.

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The seven-year-old New York native became part of the collegiate team when she was five. It’s a pairing that was made possible by Team IMPACT, a national non-profit that uses sports to support children living with chronic illnesses. Maddy lives with cerebral palsy. Her parents say the experience has changed her life.

“She was pretty shy, we didn’t know the girls, [but] over the years she’s gained so much confidence just from being around them, and feeling like she’s a part of something,” said Maddy’s mom Erin Hertweck.

On Thursday, the Hertweck family was a special guest at Team IMPACT’s Game Day Gala at Gillette Stadium. The event celebrated 10 years of the organization, which has grown to partner with over 700 colleges and universities across 49 states.

“We provide these kids and their families with a support network by embedding them into the fabric of a college athletic team,” said Team IMPACT CEO Seth Rosenzweig. “It’s a two-year intensive therapeutic program, everyone wins.”

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Tufts student athlete Angela Alibrandi was first matched with a child her freshman year. Now she’s a graduate student and says the experience has changed the course of her life.

“I went into college not knowing what I wanted to do, not knowing what I wanted to study, and through my experience, watching these kids struggle with these diseases, I’ve decided I wanted to be part of the medical community,” Alibrandi said.

And that journey is not lost on founding member Dan Kraft who’s still amazed at how quickly the non-profit has expanded. “It’s amazing for me to look back at the humble beginnings of this organization. That really just started among a group of college friends and buddies with this idea and this concept, and we’ve become a nationwide movement,” Kraft said.

Far from its humble beginnings was the celebration at Gillette. That started with a tailgate on the field and ended with a private concert from The Chainsmokers — capping off a memorable decade and kicking off a new era.

“We’re in a good to great moment in the organization. There is a lot more we’re going to do,” Kraft said. “There are so many lives we’ve touched. We’re excited for the future.”

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For more information visit: www.teamimpact.org/

Anaridis Rodriguez