Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By BRANDEE BRITT
IOWA CITY, Iowa — When it comes to the University of Iowa women’s basketball team, it has been easy to see all of the magic happening on the court this season, but what fans might not see is the magic the Hawkeyes have created in the heart of their newest friend.
Harper Stribe is an active six-year old who has been playing soccer, tennis, and basketball for as long as she can remember, but when her parents noticed a lump growing rapidly on her cheek this past summer an MRI confirmed every parent’s worst nightmare: cancer.
On June 28, 2017, Harper received a diagnosis that, when written out, is almost longer than she stands tall: Stage 1 Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma. Shortly after her diagnosis Harper was admitted to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital where she began a long and draining regimen of chemotherapy and radiation.
Enter Megan Gustafson, Tania Davis, and Alexis Sevillian.
“Through a connection in the athletics department we were made aware that Harper was at the hospital this summer,” said Abby Stamp, Iowa’s director of player development. “I usually just send a message out to the team and, more often than not, all of them respond saying they want to go.
“Tania, Megan, and Lexi were able to go meet Harper. They made a good connection that day and exchanged phone numbers so they could communicate with her as she progressed through her treatments.”
The visit to Iowa City’s Ronald McDonald House included a lot of laughs, some encouragement, and of course, basketball.
“They have a little court downstairs in the Ronald McDonald House, so we played some basketball,” said Gustafson. “It was Harper and I versus Tania and Lexi. That was fun. She’s a great kid. We love her. We’re happy to have her in our family.”
Since their initial visit, Harper has attended a women’s basketball practice where she got to check out the locker room, lift weights, and meet the rest of the team and coaching staff. She also attended Iowa’s win over Northern Illinois on Nov. 15.
“Harper has thoroughly enjoyed all the support she has received from the Children’s Hospital and the women’s basketball team,” said Nolan Stribe, Harper’s father. “For her to be able to get to know the ladies and coaches on the team on a personal level has been a huge boost for her morale in what has been a pretty dark and dismal situation.
“She looks forward to seeing the team. It has brightened her days. She refers to Tania, Lexi, Megan, and Coach Jan on a first-name basis like she has known them for years.”
Harper has now completed 24 weeks of her 45-week treatment regimen that will last into early May. According to the Stribe family, the outlook looks encouraging and the tumor is shrinking.
“The women on our team are amazing,” Stamp said. “They understand the platform they have and how important it is to give back to the community and make a difference in people’s lives. This year especially, they feel it amongst themselves. They want to play well for each other, and they understand how that type of attitude can be broadened and, in turn, make the world a better place.”