Looking Back: Syracuse’s Championship Run with Hugo

When Syracuse won their first Division I soccer championship in December, they had their Team IMPACT teammate Hugo, and his entire family, cheering them on. Players on the team, as well as Hugo’s family, look back at the incredible relationship they’ve formed.

From Julius Rauch and Tony Shaw, Syracuse Men’s Soccer players:

Hugo was a vital factor in our unprecedented ACC Championship and NCAA National Championship run. It is difficult to quantify how seeing Hugo and his family cheering us on – no matter how tough Syracuse’s weather conditions (rain, snow and hail) are – sets us free. They do not realize how much more they give us than we could ever possibly give them!

A favorite memory:

One of my favorite memories this year was from our home-game against Wake Forest, who were unbeaten and ranked fourth in the country. The weekend before the game we were invited to Hugo´s Halloween Party, went trick and treating together, and were invited to stay for dinner at his family’s house. It was such a great time and there is consensus that this was our favorite Halloween ever. Hugo and his family once again were on the sidelines at the game against the better ranked Wake Forest team, that we hadn’t beaten in years. In the last huddle before the game, we did not mention a single word about our game plan or our opponent Wake Forest like we usually do; instead the soul focus of the speech was to play for Hugo and his family, and use this opportunity to say thank you for everything they do for us. THERE WAS NO CHANCE WE WEREN´T WINNING THAT GAME NOW THAT WE PROMISED TO WIN FOR HUGO. We probably played the best soccer we played all year and this win for Hugo and his family gave us the confidence we needed to start our championship run.

It was a no-brainer that when we won the National Championship, Hugo would be one of the first people to hold the trophy.

– Tony Shaw, Syracuse Men’s Soccer Player

Winning the National Championship:

It makes us so unbelievably proud that we could use the National Trophy Celebrations with Hugo and his family as an opportunity to say thank you to the family that has given us everything and more. The hope, love, and happiness that Hugo, Grace, Rory and Mark share are truly one of a kind and every person should aspire to be like them.

Hugo’s Mom’s Perspective

Team IMPACT sat down with Hugo’s mom Rory for her insight into her son and entire family’s relationship with the Syracuse soccer team.

What has this relationship meant to Hugo and your family?

Our relationship with the soccer team has been such a beautiful gift for Hugo and our entire family. It is about being part of a family that sees you, honors you and cares about you. From the moment we met this group, they have been absolutely incredible. They celebrate Hugo for the warrior that he is. They make him feel loved every time we are with them. They truly care about him and do things to bring him joy. Last year Russell hand knit a winter hat for Hugo. And Noah, one of the players from Germany who knows we love Bayern Munich, gave us a hat and scarf from the team that he had as a child. And this year Julius had his father bring over a Bayern Munich jersey from Germany and all of the guys signed it for Hugo. All of these things hang in Hugo’s room and he looks at them every time we go in. He knows that he is part of something truly special. 

What is your favorite memory with the team?

I think our favorite memories are the simple moments. Watching Hugo’s face light up when the guys come over to say hi to him before the game or leading into halftime. The way they all give him fist pumps and take time for him. The way they crouch down so they are eye level when they talk to him or put their arm around him or tell him how cool his shoes are, haha. To them, he is Hugo and he is part of the SU Men’s Soccer team…simple words that have a monumental impact on Hugo’s life. 

Think back to the day the team won the National Championship. How did it feel to be able to be there with the team for that win?

It’s hard to even put into words how incredible those few days were. We were a bit worried, because we knew the noise level and crowds would be much bigger than we were used to. But everyone was incredible. We went over to see the guys off when they headed to the stadium and when we got there for the game the players’ families were coming over to us and introducing themselves “Is this Hugo?” “We have heard so much about him”. He felt like a celebrity! For most of the game we had Hugo in his wheelchair…but when they won, we took him out of his chair and carried him down to the edge of the field. The players came over, they hugged him, high fived him. They made him part of the celebration. And then as we were putting him back in his chair, 4 of the players ran up through the stands with the trophy so they could take their picture with Hugo. It was probably one of the most memorable moments of his life. All because this group of coaches and young men have the biggest hearts we have ever known! 

We can never thank Team IMPACT enough for the amount of joy you have brought to our family. We will hold it like a talisman in our hearts for all of our days.

– Rory, mom of Hugo, matched with Syracuse Men’s Soccer

Thank you to Team IMPACT for creating an organization that shines a light on kids like Hugo. Thank you for helping these kids to feel a part of a team, to feel seen, to feel celebrated, to feel valued. Thank you to our Syracuse Soccer family. Thank you to the coaches for fostering integrity and compassion in these men. Thank you to the players and the coaches for welcoming out entire family with open arms every time you see us. We can never thank you enough for the amount of joy you have brought to our family. We will hold it like a talisman in our hearts for all of our days.