Team IMPACT player signs with men’s basketball

Team IMPACT player signs with men’s basketball

Just before winter break, the Brandeis men’s basketball team added another player to the roster for the season. The team boosted their squad with the addition of Jack Dollar, an 11-year-old native of Newton, Massachusetts who is living with epilepsy. Dollar was able to join the Judges via an organization, Team IMPACT, which is a “national nonprofit that connects children facing serious and chronic illnesses with college athletic teams, forming life-long bonds and life-changing outcomes,” according to the organization’s website

The men’s basketball program formally drafted Dollar, a student at the Campus School at Boston College, and hosted a signing ceremony to welcome him to the team. The Judges, as well as Dollar’s family, friends and teachers gathered around to watch him sign his national letter of intent, which officially marks his commitment to the team. The ceremony was led by assistant coach LJ Harrington, with introductions from Athletic Director Lauren Haynie.

Haynie opened the reception by greeting Dollar and spoke on behalf of the Brandeis community. “Welcome to our family. Not just to the men’s basketball family, but to our entire athletics family. We look forward to seeing you, your family, and your friends [here at Brandeis],” she said.

Coach Harrington then informed the audience about how the relationship between the Judges and Dollar came to be. Harrington shared an anecdote from June 2019, saying that he, his wife and head coach Jean Bain attended the organization’s annual gala event. When Harrington’s wife noted that their own program was lacking an IMPACT player, this prompted Harrington himself to reach out and begin the recruiting process. 

It was only about a month ago that the Judges received a call from the organization, noting that they might have found a potential player that would be a good fit for the program. When asked by directors at Team IMPACT what the Judges were looking for in their recruits, Harrington told The Brandeis Hoot in an email, “what we really need to add is a good teammate, and someone who can help us in multiple ways…This kid needs to bring it.”

“[Jack] is social, loves people and does not complain. He will be a leader by example and just wants to be coached,” Men’s basketball player Nolan Hagerty ’22 said about Dollar in an interview with The Hoot. “Jack has been a great addition to the team and brings a lot of energy and positivity around us. It is fun to see him engage with everyone and he always lifts our spirits.”

At Brandeis, the men’s basketball team is not the only one to have a partnership with Team IMPACT. In addition to the signing of Dollar, both men’s and women’s soccer, women’s basketball, softball and volleyball currently have IMPACT players as part of their teams as well. For women’s basketball, Sara Berman of Newton North High School has been a part of the program for many years. Berman is living with a traumatic brain injury that has resulted in epilepsy and various learning disabilities. She loves coming to games, being in the locker room with the team, participating in practices throughout the season and is a big fan of head coach Carol Simon. Berman also plays basketball herself through the Unified Basketball program, which allows for those with and without learning disabilities to play basketball together on the same court. That being said, members of the women’s basketball team have gotten the chance to see Sara live in action, playing the sport they both know and love.

Julia St. Amand ’20, captain of the women’s basketball team, enjoys having Sara around, commenting that “Sara brings the team and I so much joy. When she runs onto the court her smile instantly brightens my day. It is so fulfilling knowing how happy coming to practice makes her.” 

Team IMPACT is a nation-wide nonprofit with roots in Boston, MA. The organization was founded in 2011, and since has matched almost 1900 kids to more than 500 colleges and universities across 48 states. The children involved in the program range from ages five to 16 and have been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness that requires treatment with lengthy hospital stays. 

This consequently affects a child’s social relationships outside of this obstacle, which can be combated through the support of an athletic team. Participating teams come from all NCAA divisions, as well as the NAIA, and must be within close proximity of an eligible child. Over the past nine years, 55,000 student athletes have come into contact with IMPACT players, spreading their passion and joy for their own sports with the kids who are matched, according to Team Impact’s website. 

The program itself states that their goals for the child are mainly “increased optimism, growth in confidence, and a fostered sense of belonging.” Along with that, it is intended that “college athletes gain an increased empathy for other people as a result of participating in the program, and see the world as much larger than themselves,” according to the program website.

These values have certainly been perpetuated within the Brandeis athletics community, as the influence of kids like Dollar and Berman have had significant effects on all of those involved. The organization is called Team IMPACT for a reason, as the meshing of two communities has long lasting outcomes for the kids, players, and coaches. Whether it is on the court, in the locker room, or out in the community, the relationships and bonds formed through Team IMPACT are priceless.

Editor’s note: Sports Editor Sophie Trachtenberg is a member of the women’s basketball team.

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