Teams Making an Impact

WHAT BEGAN in 2011 as a local nonprofit effort aimed at providing mentorship for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses has become a nationally known program with hundreds of colleges and universities involved—and Stonehill’s athletics program has been there from almost the start. Team IMPACT has connected more than 800 children with college athletic teams across the nation.

Since its first Team IMPACT pairing in 2012, Stonehill has been matched with nine children, ranking it in the top three nationally for number of matches. With the College’s increasing involvement in the program, an on-campus ambassador position was created last year. Senior Meaghan Martin, a member of the volleyball team, was eager to take on the new role, working to build connections with all of the children matched with Stonehill athletic teams.

“Being involved with Team IMPACT has opened not only my eyes but also the eyes of all of the student-athletes involved,” says Martin. “We have seen how much these kids look up to us and really cherish the time that we spend with them.”

While the program benefits the children, the impact it has on student-athletes is often almost greater.

“I think the biggest thing is that it’s a reminder that we as college athletes are very fortunate,” says Stephen Conway ’17 of the men’s soccer team, which in 2014, was matched with Christopher Fuller, a 14-year-old with cystic fibrosis. “For us as a team, Chris brings a different spirit and energy that we may not usually get every day,” he adds.

The relationships that are built between student-athletes and their matches are not just temporary either. An extraordinary example of that would be the bond between Christopher Tasiopoulos ’15 and the men’s hockey team’s first Team IMPACT match, Jake Quinn. Despite graduating from the program, which is an option for the children and their families, Quinn has maintained his friendship with Tasiopoulos. In fact, the two, along with Quinn’s parents, attended a Bruins game together this past fall.

In December, 12-year-old Leigha Hedtler became the ninth and latest member of Team IMPACT to sign on as a member of the Skyhawk athletics family, when she joined the cheerleading team. Diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma last January, Hedtler is being treated with an immunotherapy at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

“We have the opportunity to be role models to these young children,” says Martin, who is planning a special Team IMPACT day on campus in the spring. “Not only are we changing their lives by having them be a part of our teams, but they are also changing our lives every time we see them.”

12-year-old Leigha Hedtler [above, center] joined the cheerleading team in December, making her the ninth Team IMPACT match at Stonehill.

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