By Vin Gallo
Deputy Sports Editor
Ten minutes until the press conference. As the Springfield College community conversed and awaited for the arrival of the men’s gymnastics team’s newest member, the football team played the role of entertainment. Players performed flips and wrestled one another on the mat amongst a sea of smiles, laughter and violent thuds echoed throughout the room. An extravagant cake could be spotted being carried across the gymnasium, as blue writing and a pair of flowers brightened the phrase, “Welcome Zach” atop white frosting.
The room erupted with applause when Zach LaBroad, his siblings, and his parents, Dennis and Eric Volz-Benoit entered Kresge Gymnasium and took the podium for draft night. There, Zach was presented with an official Springfield College gymnastics jersey.
Zach and the gymnastics team are the 1,000 match for Team IMPACT, a national organization that pairs children with life threatening illnesses with collegiate athletic teams. Springfield is three pairs away from moving into the the top five schools in the country with the most matches on campus.
Zach has cerebral palsy, but he has fought through numerous challenges throughout his nine year life, and has visited the team at practices. He has also traveled to see the team compete in the Westpoint Open in N.Y. His strength is a great inspiration to each gymnast on the roster.
“Today has been a very special day for all of us,” said sophomore gymnast Drew Carter. “Zach has made a huge impact and is a motivational figure for all of us. [He’ll] come in here everyday with a smile on his face no matter what.”
When the drafting became official, Dennis Volz-Benoit reflected on Zach’s connection with the gymnasts, a relationship that is primed to blossom in the coming months.
“It’s awesome that he’s here, that the team took him in where he’s actually part of the team,” he said. “He can’t do everything, but [the gymnasts] light up when they see him, and he lights up when he sees them.”
The Pride will face Penn State on Saturday at home, with Zach and his family cheering them on.