BOCA RATON, Fla. – On a sunny South Florida Friday morning, members of the Lynn University baseball program gathered at the Lynn Baseball Field to celebrate the graduation of Ari Cohen, who joined the team through Team IMPACT in the fall of 2013.
"Every now and then you get an opportunity where someone comes around and opens your eyes to what's really important in life," said head coach Rudy Garbalosa. "People are what's important, and having Ari around us helps put in perspective that it doesn't matter if you went 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, it's about people and caring for one another.
"Ari has helped our guys learn that win or lose, it's the people and caring about each other that matter in life," Garbalosa added. "Seeing our guys come out today and every time that he has been here in different stages in his life has been special. He has truly helped our student-athletes become better people."
Cohen spent five seasons as a member of the program, joining the baseball players for practices and games, while members of the team joined Ari for birthdays, professional baseball games and his bar mitzvah. Ari was also celebrated earlier this season with a Senior Day ceremony prior to the first game of the Embry-Riddle series on April 20.
"I don't think I can put into words what Lynn has done for Ari," said his mother, Leah Cohen. "It's so much more than something tangible to write about. As his mom to witness this team surround Ari, it is priceless and overwhelming—in a good way!"
Team IMPACT is a program dedicated to improving the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses by establishing and expanding vibrant team-based support networks. Lynn's baseball program and head coach Rudy Garbalosa welcomed Ari with open arms in 2013, and he has been a big part of the program ever since.
"Ari has changed the lives of so many at Lynn, including mine," said associate athletic director Sara Quatrocky, who helped Ari join the program in the fall of 2013. "His spirit is infectious and watching him grow as a Fighting Knight has been a privilege. He's a special kid and he will have my heart forever."
"I see how thankful Coach Garbalosa is because he watches with me, he watches his team huddle around this boy and I know that's all the thanks he needs," said Leah Cohen. "If you're ever lucky enough to come to the field—sit high up in the bleachers. You never know when Ari will turn on the hose!"
For photos of Ari's graduation, click here.