LAWRENCE, KS (KCTV) – Wednesday is when an important bond officially began for an 11-year-old and the athletes she looks up to.

Shea Carnahan signed her official Letter of Intent to join the University of Kansas Volleyball team.

“Shea’s been through more than most 11-year-olds. When she was 18-months-old, they told us she probably wouldn’t live,” Trisha Carnahan, Shea’s mom, said. “When she lived, they told us she probably wouldn’t walk or talk. After that, she developed what they determined to be epilepsy. It was extreme epilepsy that causes regression.”

Every day Shea fights through obstacles.

“She had her right temporal lobe removed two years ago,” Trisha said. “Look at her today. She’s amazing.”

Shea’s courage inspired Team IMPACT to choose her, who is a volleyball player herself, to team up with KU. It was clear from their first meeting this was a perfect fit.

“Played musical chairs and jammed out to Taylor Swift,” Shea said.

Trisha says the experience has already been life changing for their family.

“I left in tears. They were happy tears. It was an extraordinary experience watching her connect with a group of girls, young women,” Trisha said. “Watching her connect on a level I’ve never seen her connect on. Watching her have an emotional tie to somebody that quickly and that immediately it fills your heart with joy.”

“That works both ways. Shea is an inspiration to us. The way she goes about every day is something our players need to see,” Ray Bechard, the University of Kansas Head Volleyball Coach said. “They can compete fiercely and still have a level of grace. That’s something athletes need to see especially young athletes.”

Shea is ready to cheer on her new friends in her new official KU jersey.

This Friday Shea will get the chance to complete her first serve as a Jayhawk before the team’s match.

Since 2011, Team IMPACT has matched more than 1,800 children with more than 600 colleges and universities to connect children facing serious or chronic illnesses with college athletic teams to form lifelong bonds.

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