For Immediate Release
February 3, 2012
Courtesy of the Stonehill Athletics Communications Staff
Easton, Mass. – Earlier this season, the Stonehill College men's ice hockey team "drafted" Berkley, Mass. fourth grader Jake Quinn through Team IMPACT (Inspire, Motivate, Play Against Challenges, Together), a New England based non-profit that aims at improving the quality of life for kids facing life-threatening illnesses by creating unparalleled team based support systems.
Since then, Jake has been handing out just as much support to the Skyhawks as he has been given.
"It has been uplifting to say the least," said Stonehill College men's ice hockey head coach Patrick Leahy of Jake's presence on the team. "Jake comes into the locker room before the game, between periods and after the game. It gives our guys the opportunity to feel at ease and laugh and smile a bit over the course of a mentally and physically demanding two hour game."
Leahy furthered his point on Jake's impact on the Skyhawks squad noting that the nine-year-old hockey fanatic's enthusiasm and excitement towards being a part of the team has put a lot into perspective.
"I have noticed that the stress levels have lessened with Jake around," said Leahy. Adding, "I also enjoy seeing the smile on Jake's face whenever he's around the rink. Wherever I am in the rink, the excitement in his voice resonates and makes me smile. If we are giving Jake something to look forward to and be happy about, that is very special to my team and I."
Since birth, Jake has been battling a rare illness which has resulted in vision issues and years of physical therapy. At last diagnosis, Jake's doctors believe they have pinpointed the illness to be Moebius Syndrome – a rare condition that affects the nerves of the eyes and face. Originally born blind, Jake started to gain some of his vision after three months and currently has a vision of 20/60, near normal.
Jake, who is nine-years-old, is infatuated with sports, especially hockey, the Boston Bruins and now the Skyhawks. Jake has been a mainstay with Stonehill since being "drafted" showing up to plenty of its home contests at the Foxboro Sports Center, going bowling with the team and hanging out with his favorite player Chris Tasiopoulos.
"Taz is his man," said Leahy referring to Tasiopoulos as 'Taz'. "I honestly do not know why, but it is great to watch him and Jake at the rink together."
Tasiopoulos isn't quite sure why either, but relishes the role he is playing for Jake off the ice.
"I really couldn't tell you why I'm the one he has the best connection with," said Tasiopoulos. "But I have embraced the role and I have incorporated talking to Jake into my pregame routine before every home game. The other day I had the opportunity to give Jake one of my old sticks and watching his face light up when I gave him the stick was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life."
Tasiopoulos, a freshman, has also noticed Jake's effect on the team as well.
"Having Jake on the team has given everybody a new perspective on mental toughness," said Tasiopoulos. "He goes through so much with all of his treatment, schooling, and frequent trips to Children's Hospital but he still manages to beam every time he steps foot in our locker room. It's pretty amazing that he can put all of his troubles behind him when he enters the rink and there's definitely something we can learn from that about what really matters in life."
HOW IT GOT STARTED
On January 15, the Stonehill College women's basketball team officially "drafted" a player of its own, Lexi Simoes of Sharon, Mass. Before drafting Lexi in January, women's basketball assistant coach Jackie Smith and the rest of the Skyhawks staff were in communication with Team IMPACT and also heard about Jake.
"Jackie got in touch with me back in October," said Leahy. "She was in communication with the organization and they had a boy who was a hockey fanatic and was looking for a local college hockey team to join up with." Leahy continued.
"I am really big into my team being a part of the community as much as possible," said Leahy. "This was an opportunity for us to make a young hockey fan feel like a part of a team that he otherwise might not have had the opportunity to experience."
Several months later the Stonehill men's ice hockey team has taken Jake completely under their wing, giving him plenty of Skyhawks gear and, most importantly, a lasting friendship based off a passion for hockey.
"It has been great having Jake on the team. The love he has for the game of hockey is so pure and we can tell how he is truly happy when he is with the team," said Tasiopoulos. "No matter what is going on with the team, when Jake enters the locker room everybody is all smiles and it's great to have that feeling just knowing that being with us is the best part of his day."