Said Sanford, “I am excited about the way our guys embraced the opportunity and look forward to watching both Bowen, his family, and our athletes get to know and support each other.” On Saturday, the Cowboys’ basketball team was part of something that’s both personal and touching. That’s because before the tip of McNeese’s Southland Conference basketball game against Houston Baptist, the team “signed” Bowen Johnson of Westlake, an 8-year old boy who is recovering from burns that have consumed over 85 percent of his body. In 2008, Bowen was trapped in his home when it was engulfed with flames. He was eventually rescued by his father but not before over 85 percent of his body was severely burned. “(Senior Associate Athletic Director) Bridget Martin connected me with the representatives of Team Impact. They gave me an overview of the Team Impacts purpose and goal… to connect kids who have life threatening or challenging sickness with college athletic teams to give them the opportunity to be a part of a team,” Sanford said. “In addition, they emailed me testimonies of college teams that were in the program and sent a video of actual teams ‘drafting’ kids onto their team. Two points impressed me. One, as the parents told of how this association with the team gave their kid confidence to face their illness, support from athletes they look up to and an identity with something bigger than themselves. And two, the college athletes themselves expressing how much they had been impacted by being associated with the young person.” The idea of drafting a child from Team IMPACT was brought to Cowboys’ head coach Dave Simmons by McNeese FCA Director Steve Sanford. After spending three months at LSUS Hospital, he was transferred to Cincinnati Shriners where he received burn therapy. In 2010 he was diagnosed with a heart murmur and because of that, collapsed at school due to cardiac arrest in 2012. He has since had a pacemaker installed to help regulate his heartbeat. Bowen was officially drafted onto the Cowboys’ basketball team during at a signing party held at Burton Coliseum and was introduced during the starting lineup of the Cowboys’ game. LAKE CHARLES, La. – McNeese State’s motto includes the words “personal touch.” Now back in school, Bowen must go through two to three surgeries a year to help relieve the pressure of the lack of elasticity to his skin because of his burns. Doctors are also working on solutions that will allow him to have usable fingers and thumbs. “Sometimes we take for granted the abilities God has given us,” Ledrick Eackles said before the game. Eackles is a senior guard on the Cowboys’ team and one of four players that have been designated Team IMPACT leaders for Bowen. “We’re going to take him in, treat him as a member of our family and hopefully bring some joy and excitement. In return, there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll teach all of us everything about living life to its fullest and to be appreciative of our talents and abilities.” He spent the next three months in intensive care at LSU-Shreveport Hospital where he underwent 27 surgeries for skin grafts. During this time, his kidneys began to fail and he heart stopped three different times. In addition, doctors had to amputate his fingers because they no longer functioned due to the trauma caused by the fire. “Mr. Sanford showed (the team) a video of what Team IMPACT does and after the video, he told they guys to think about it for a few days and discuss it,” Simmons said. “He told them they needed to take their time with it because it’s going to require a complete commitment from them. They didn’t need a few days. Right there the guys decided this is something they wanted to do for this child.” Bowen is a child of Team IMPACT, a non-profit organization chartered to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening illnesses. Core to the organization’s model is harnessing the power of teamwork by matching these courageous kids with college athletic teams. As a member of the Cowboys, Bowen was treated like any other member of the team. He received team gear, had locker room access, attended practices and sat on the bench, among many other luxuries.