Utica WSOC raises $6,000 to send Team IMPACT teammate to Disney World


Jess LaBella

Utica University’s women’s soccer team with a check for $6,000 to send Team IMPACT teammate Arianna “Anna” LaBella to Disney World.

Matthew Breault, Editor-in-Chief

The Utica University women’s soccer team recently raised $6,000 to send Team IMPACT teammate Arianna “Anna” LaBella and her family to Disney World.

LaBella, the 12-year-old local from Ilion, who was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma Bone Cancer on July 8, 2019, signed a letter of intent with the Utica University women’s soccer team in October 2021.

LaBella became a member of the Pioneers family due to Team IMPACT, which is a non-profit group that focuses on children facing serious and chronic illnesses. Team IMPACT matches these children with a college athletic team, in order to improve the quality of life for the children who are affected by these various illnesses.

On June 6, 2020, after almost a year of chemotherapy and radiation, LaBella became cancer free. Unfortunately for LaBella and her family, her cancer reappeared on Feb. 4, 2021.

Despite suffering from cancer, LaBella has maintained a positive attitude throughout, that hasn’t gone unnoticed. Because of LaBella’s charismatic personality, members of the Utica women’s soccer team are excited to give her an experience of a lifetime by sending her, her younger brother Carter and her parents Jess and Robert LaBella to Disney World.

Junior captain of the women’s soccer team Jenna Keeman said the amount of money the team was able to raise for LaBella was nothing short of amazing. 

“Being able to come together as a team to raise such a large amount of money in such a short period of time was incredible,” Keeman said. “Team IMPACT has helped our team connect with an amazing family and it is awesome to see not only our team, but almost every team on campus to help out with something great.”

Freshman goalkeeper Karen Troche was another member of the Pioneers’ women’s soccer team who was overjoyed with the outcome of the donations. Troche said LaBella is someone who is near and dear to the heart of the program, and she is excited to see her be able to go to Disney World.

“Sending Anna to Disney brings me happiness knowing that she will be happy and excited to be there,” Troche said. “Anna means a lot to this program and everyone on it. We adore her and hope she continues to light the atmosphere up with her smile.”

In less than one week, the Pioneers’ women’s soccer team, alongside Amazing Gracie’s Gift Foundation, Strong Little Souls and Campaign One At A Time, raised $6,000 to help rent an RV and provide extra cash for the LaBella family to send them to Orlando.

#AnnaStrong has been one of the driving forces for the Utica University women’s soccer team. In order to help reach the $6,000 mark, the team sold bracelets that read “#ANNASTRONG,” while also collecting donations through https://www.campaignoaat.org/oaat-east/annastrong.

Mikayla Kelley, a sophomore midfielder for Utica, said that it was bittersweet to be able to send the LaBella family to Disney and is very thankful to everyone who donated.

“I was so excited to be able to help give such a deserving girl the opportunity to take this trip,” Kelley said. “Anna is such a sweet girl with a kind heart and we all enjoy spending time with her. Thank you to everyone that helped contribute to be able to do this. #AnnaStrong.”

As LaBella’s cancer has continued to spread, the family’s goal is to now prolong her life, make memories and pray for a miracle, according to a post from OAAT East on Instagram.

The trip to Disney World is just one of the many opportunities LaBella will have to make memories. Utica University women’s soccer head coach Brooke Barbuto is very thankful for the people who donated money to help support this cause, and asked if people could keep LaBella and her family in their thoughts as she continues to fight.

“Thank you to everyone for your very generous donations,” Barbuto said. “Please continue to pray for Anna and her family.”