Eugene, Ore. -- Tuesday, Oregon Volleyball called a press conference to sign what you may call an impact player. But Danielle Bixby is more than just a top recruit for the Ducks, she's their little duckling.
"From the very beginning she was just on fire so this press conference today was exactly consistent with everything that she's ever been to us for sure," says University of Oregon volleyball assistant coach Erika Dillard.
Danielle Bixby is consistent: a ball of positive energy, challenging Duck volleyball players to dance-offs, while having fun with those in the crowd. She is 8 years old and suffers from Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis.
According to the Histiocytosis Foundation, LCH is described as the 'most common of the histiocytic disorders and occurs when the body accumulates too many immature Langerhans cells, a subset of the larger family of cells known as histiocytes. Langerhans cells are a type of white blood cell that normally help the body fight infection. In LCH, too many Langerhans cells are produced and build up in certain parts of the body where they can form tumors or damage organs.'
But you'd never know it, seeing her engage with everyone in the media room at Matthew Knight Arena. The Eugene native, in conjunction with the nonprofit Team Impact, signed a letter of intent with Oregon volleyball on Tuesday.
"When we started working out the final details they asked what college we were interested in and we instantly said Oregon," explains Shannon Baimbridge, Danielle's mother. "There was no other choice. This is our home college."
Danielle has been a rallying point for the Ducks and made her presence known immediately. After spending some time with the Ducks leadership group, she met the whole team. She had the coaches make the girls run wind-sprints, and then teach her how to play volleyball. Since that point, the Ducks have, in a way, adopted Danielle as one of their own, and as their season gears up, her treatments are starting to wind down.
"She's completed 10 rounds of chemo since August 18th of last year and her last round of chemo will be the last week of September this year so we have lots of reasons to celebrate," says Shannon.
The month of September is also Children's Cancer Awareness month and Histiocytosis month. While she'll never be completely free of the disease (it is categorized as either active or inactive), Shannon calls her 8 year old daughter 'a warrior'. There have been trying times, for both Shannon and her daughter, but this summer with Oregon has been a high point for them both. Danielle, in particular, has built a bond with Ducks volleyball that she will hold with her going into her final month of treatment.
"I really love them so much because they're my best friends and my team is special to me and I'm their little duck and they're my girls," says Bixby.
To conclude the press conference, the team hoists up Danielle and they put their hands in. She gives the count, and on three, the team and Danielle yell in unison.
You can follow Danielle's journey on Facebook at 'Princess Danielle's Journey with LCH'.