Wellesley athletes welcome children with life-threatening illnesses to their teams

Courtesy of Jayne Ellis '14

Courtesy of Jayne Ellis ’14

Team IMPACT program extends its reach with second match

By EMILY BARY ’14

Staff Writer

After signing a second student to a sports team, Wellesley’s Team IMPACT program has become more of a presence in the Wellesley community.

Team IMPACT pairs children who have life-threatening illnesses with college sports teams. Team members then serve as mentors for the children and do activities with them and their families.

In late February, the softball team officially added Maeve, a seven year old, to its roster. The team held a signing day for her at a basketball game and welcomed Maeve to the team with cake and a halftime ceremony.

Cathy, a 14-year-old who battled leukemia, joined the swimming and diving team last year.

“That was when I got really excited about the program and realized that if we were going to do this, then we should do it really big,” said Courtney Collins ’14, a fencer who helps coordinate Wellesley’s Team IMPACT program. “We planned Cathy’s signing day and got the entire athletic community involved in it. We had a balloon arch and a huge cake, and it was just a really nice day.”

Wellesley’s student athletes enjoy having their Team IMPACT signees stop by practices or come to team bonding activities on their days off. Recently, the softball team took Maeve and her family to see “Frozen.” The swimming and diving team regularly hosts study parties at which team members do their homework alongside Cathy, their Team IMPACT match.

“Cathy is a sophomore in high school, so she likes to do what many typical high schoolers do: watch movies, listen to music, watch ‘Pretty Little Liars,’” said Tiffany Chen ’15, the swimming and diving team’s Team IMPACT liaison. “I think it is nice for her to have someone else to talk to about life, school, etcetera.”

The response from family members of the signees has been incredibly positive.

“They love it,” said Jayne Ellis ’14, who serves as a liaison between the softball team and Maeve’s family. “I think we’re doing what Team IMPACT really strives for, in that we’re giving Maeve and her sisters another support group to turn to. We take all the seriousness away and just want to have fun.”

Collins says that Cathy’s parents were at first hesitant to drive Cathy out to Wellesley all the time because their work schedules made it challenging. But now that Cathy has become really close to the team, her parents often take her to visit the swimmers.

The Wellesley athletes say that participating in the program helps to put college athletics into perspective and gives them a chance to help people in the local community.

“It’s just great to help someone outside of the team and have it be a team effort,” Chen said. “It is a very unique opportunity, and I think [it] opens our eyes up as athletes to something outside of the ‘Wellesley bubble.’”

Ellis hopes that eventually all Wellesley athletic teams will be matched with children interested in the Team IMPACT program.

“It’s a great opportunity not just for the child to be with the team, but for the team to have the child,” she said. “It takes away a lot of the stress of Wellesley and makes us realize that there are bigger things in the world.”

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