WEST HARTFORD, Conn. - The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) Department of Athletics has proudly partnered with Team IMPACT, an organization that matches children who are facing serious and chronic illnesses with college athletic teams to develop relationships and skills that help them complete the full circle of healing. The Blue Jays and Team IMPACT are in the process of finalizing their first match with the USJ softball program.
"To be working with Team IMPACT is an incredible honor," stated Director of Student-Athlete Success Kristen Folan, who has been the lead from USJ on creating this distinguished partnership. "This organization does tremendous things for local children battling chronic illnesses and I am so glad some of our teams at USJ will now have the opportunity to contribute to their mission of helping those in need."
Team IMPACT is the only U.S. nonprofit that tackles the emotional trauma and social isolation experienced by children facing serious and chronic illnesses. Through Team IMPACT, children are drafted onto college athletic teams for a two-year therapeutic program that complements their medical treatments.
"From the very first conversation about participating in our program to matching the USJ softball team, I've been so impressed by how the entire USJ community has embraced our mission," shared Ryan Irwin, Team IMPACT's Northeast Executive Director. "We are excited about the future and look forward to working with USJ to further help pediatric patients and families in Connecticut, while also setting an example for schools around the region and the country."
Through participation in Team IMPACT's clinically informed program, children experience a true sense of belonging, resulting in increased empowerment, normalization, health promotion, and resilience. Families feel connected and supported as their child achieves individualized goals, while experiencing the joy of team camaraderie and inclusion; and student athletes gain perspective and inspiration, as well as lessons in adversity and resilience.
In partnership with Team IMPACT staff, USJ's athletic programs will proactively develop personalized game plans for their potential matches to ensure that they are able to build rapport, connection, and trust with each other. If a child and team are both vetted to be a good match, the Blue Jays will hold a "Signing Day" where the team officially "drafts" the child onto their roster making him/her an official team member. Each team plans their individual Signing Day which can consist of signing ceremonies, press conferences, handing out an official team jersey, a locker in the locker room, and being announced before the start of a game for example. More than anything, the Signing Day marks that from that point forward, the child is an official member of the respective team.
Team IMPACT is a year-round experience. Through a structured approach, a clinically-trained Team IMPACT Case Manager monitors, guides, and supports both the families and teams to ensure meaningful bonds are formed over the course of the relationship. Case Managers asses each participant's progress to ensure goals are achieved and milestones are reached by "Graduation". Formal facilitation provided by Case Managers ends at Graduation, but the relationships can continue on. Graduation is a time to reflect on and celebrate the achievements attained.
Since its inception in 2011, Team IMPACT has matched over 2,100 children with more than 700 colleges and universities in 49 states, positively impacting more than 60,000 participating student-athletes. What began in the back offices of J. Calnan & Associates is now a national nonprofit based in Boston, Mass., with regional offices across the United States.
Team IMPACT has more than 1,200 teams across the country waiting to be matched with children, ages 5-16, who have been diagnosed with a serious or chronic illness and who could benefit from becoming a member of the team. If you know a child who may be interested, please visit www.teamimpact.org for more information.
About USJ Athletics
University of Saint Joseph (USJ) Athletics is a NCAA Division III member of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC). The Blue Jays field 15 varsity sports with 200-plus student-athletes. For more information, please visit www.usjbluejays.com.