By Danielle Achin
By Tyler Wahl
Student athletes face challenges everyday balancing their academic and athletic careers.
The Framingham State Athletic Department’s partnership with “Team IMPACT” gives student athletes a different perspective that reminds them to view those struggles as blessings.
“Team IMPACT” is a non-profit organization that allows student athletes to see beyond the glory of playing a sport, and provides children living with a chronic or life-threatening illness with a safe and supportive environment to connect with a college athletic team or local community.
For the past few years, the Framingham State football and softball teams have been part of the program and Athletic Director Tom Kelley says it shows the student-athletes how truly blessed they are.
He said they do it “because it’s the right thing to do.
“I tell the players how blessed they are with good health and being able to do things a certain way. These young men and women, they aren’t as fortunate and sometimes lose their social aspects with their friends, so we step in and become part of that. I think it’s important our athletes see the other side of the spectrum, and it’s heartwarming to watch the students open up to these little kids – it’s worth it,” he added.
Team IMPACT goes through a series of steps to find the perfect fit for each child when joining a team. These factors, including proximity to campus, physical and sensory needs, and prognosis, are considered for each child. The child is then “drafted” onto their roster, making them an official team member.
Team IMPACT has one main goal – to find a way to ensure no child is sidelined by sickness or disability.
Head Softball Coach Larry Miller “drafted’ their first player to the team in 2018 – Lindsey. He said, “It was an opportunity for our program to be able to have a positive impact on the community outside of the game and something we were excited to get involved in.”
Miller said bringing Lindsey to the team benefitted them as much as it did her. The women loved her presence – she brought fun and high energy.
Miller added that softball and the program as a whole is much bigger than playing the games, and Team IMPACT sets that example.
“Collegiate athletics teaches life lessons through the medium of sports – giving Lindsey the opportunity to be a part of us and for us being able to be a part of her life is what it’s all about,” he said.
Team IMPACT is a country-wide organization with multiple teams.
The organization named Seth Rosenzweig as the chief executive officer of Team IMPACT in August 2016. Since then, he’s worked to ensure the growth of their nonprofit organization.
Rosenzweig was quoted on the organization’s website saying, “Team IMPACT brings together two of my passion areas; improving the quality of life for children battling serious and chronic illness and transforming and empowering a generation of future leaders to positively change the world.”
There are also regional staff members doing work on the ground to guarantee positive experiences for these children and collegiate athletes.
Merrimack graduate Ryan Irwin is an example of a member who directly helps schools like Framingham State get involved with the program.
He’s been the Northeastern regional executive director since April 2020, and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of their New York and New England programs. He also oversees all the research and development strategies used to expand the team’s engagement with athletic programs.
Irwin was quoted on the organization’s website saying, “I’m honored and excited to have the opportunity to work for an organization like Team IMPACT to make a true difference in a child’s life through the power of team.”
He added, “The stories I hear every single day about the resilient children, their incredible families, and our student leaders are inspirational.”
Junior Cully Curran of the Rams football team was drafted to work with Johan.
Curran said his biggest takeaway from the program and drafting Johan to the team is letting him experience something he’s always wanted to be part of despite his condition that doesn’t allow him to compete in games.
Johan is in elementary school and has always been a football fan. Curran said, “I believe the perspective on football and life that he gives us players and coaches is far greater, and although he can’t participate himself, he contributes to our team in his own way. It was a blessing to have connected with him and his family.”
Framingham State’s athletes learn valuable lessons through the program they can use on and off the field for the remainder of their athletic careers and beyond.
“Team IMPACT is an amazing organization that positively impacts college programs and their matches,” Miller said. “Not every match is perfect, but we were very lucky to get matched with Lindsey and it has been an outstanding experience.”
Kelley added,“We don’t want to just focus on being a student athlete. We want this to be a community and I think the mission is we’re teaching these guys life lessons and on the other hand, we’re doing a good thing for that young child and their family.”