8-year-old Autumn Schierling brings joy to KU soccer

LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - It's hard to keep up with Autumn Schierling.

"You could give Autumn two sticks and she would be happy to play," her mom Lindsay Revenew said.

One minute, she's drawing you a picture of her favorite stuffed fox named Foxa. The next, she's running around outside, kicking her Kansas soccer ball.

"I'm just happy all the time," Schierling said.

And that's rather remarkable considering the circumstances she was dealt.

The eight-year-old was born with infant glaucoma. She underwent seven surgeries on her right eye within her first year of living.

"It was really scary not knowing what the future was going to be like," Revenew said. "We kind of just got like thrown into this medical world."

When she was about four months old, Schierling went to see a neurologist due to lingering pressure in her eye that was deemed unusual. She was diagnosed with Type 1 Neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on her nerves.

The Lawrence native has a tumor on the right side of her face that branches into her brain. She's been through multiple treatments where the tumor has grown, shrunk and then grown again. Schierling is still a part of some case studies and will have a checkup in December.

But all of that doesn't faze her.

"Yeah I don't really pay attention to that," Schierling said. "My mind just goes to LuLu Land."

There, the Sunflower Elementary student doesn't have to deal with the occasional questions about how she looks or what she goes through.

"Schools can be mean, kids can be mean, peers can be mean," Revenew said. "High school is even a scary thought."

"Sometimes I just go to the teacher," Schierling said when asked what she does if she gets teased or harassed. "But I just brush it off sometimes."

"At the end of the day, Autumn is very independent," Revenew said. "She knows who she is, she knows she's loved."

But it still helps to feel that love from others. And she got a lot more of that in August, when Kansas soccer connected with the family through a program called Team Impact. It's a national nonprofit that connects children facing serious and chronic illnesses with local college teams.

The Jayhawks held an official signing on Aug. 10, making Schierling a part of the team. And that gave her something she might not get often.

"For her to feel like she was one of the team," Revenew said. "Because I think that at times, she definitely feels so different that she doesn't get that in other places."

"She has a bunch of teammates now, a bunch of sisters," Jayhawk junior forward Katie McClure said. "It's great to see her involved with us and I love having her here."

The lifelong Jayhawk fan has posters of all the players and her signed letter of intent hanging on the wall of her bedroom. She attends games and practices while also hanging out with the team off of the field.

But whenever she's on it, she makes it a point to get involved in everything. That could mean mingling with Jayhawks before the game, walking with them out on the field, horsing around with Big Jay or kicking the ball around in warmups.

"Every time when I do warmups, they laugh," Schierling said. "If they don't score, it'll make me sad. But if they do score, I'll be like yay!"

And it's that joy that infects the Jayhawks.

"Her positive energy she brings, there's nothing like it," Kansas redshirt junior midfielder Anna Courtney said. "And it definitely makes us more positive and happy to see the impact we can bring on her."

"Autumn brings a lot to this team," McClure said. "She has a lot of energy. She makes us be more positive, even when things aren't going well."

And that sums up Autumn perfectly: a little girl who keeps kicking and spreading happiness, no matter what's been thrown at her.

"Maybe sometimes she doesn't fully understand the scenario," Revenew said with some tears flowing. "But at the end of the day, she's fully supportive of all of us too, which is amazing because she's the one that's going through it."