COLCHESTER, Vt. - The Saint Michael's College men's lacrosse team recently completed its first season with Williston native Joe Soares as a member of the squad. The 13-year-old joined the program through Team IMPACT, which is a non‐profit organization that improves the quality of life for children facing chronic or life-threatening illness through the power of team.
Soares, who has cerebral palsy, became a staple on the Purple Knight sideline as the spring season progressed, attending home games and many practices, along with his family. "Joey was not able to speak to us, but could hear and understand everything we said to him," said rising junior Colin Cronin (North Andover, Mass./North Andover). "We learned quickly that he was a very intelligent kid who had many other ways of communicating. Always encouraging him and letting him know we were pumped to see him brought about a consistent joyful response from Joey that was so rewarding to witness. We also loved being able to include Joey's brother Parker in all the fun."
"He was at our games, even the ones when it was super cold and a little snowy," added rising sophomore Spencer Ralston (Hebron, Conn./Cushing Academy). "It has been awesome having him a part of our program. He really brings up the energy around our team. He always has the biggest smile on his face when we go over and say hi to him or when we yell out his name. Here's a cool story: At the Mercy game I decided to go over and take a knee by Joe during the national anthem. Then we went on to win the game, then I did it at the Assumption game and the same thing happened. He is our good luck charm, and we love having him at our games. Seeing his smile on his face when he is around our team, I know even if we don't win or we don't play well, in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter. We are making this kid's day, and I am thankful I can do that for someone like Joe. He wears No. 17 and looks like a true PK lacrosse brother!"
May graduate Hillary Miller (Plattsburgh, N.Y./Plattsburgh/Colby-Sawyer), formerly of the women's swimming & diving and volleyball programs, joined the Soares family at games after Joe was also a fixture at volleyball matches last fall. Miller first met Joe in New York working summer camp at the Double H Ranch, which serves children with life-threatening illnesses. When Joe showed up wearing a Saint Michael's men's lacrosse T-shirt one day, Miller discovered his family is from Williston, and one of his favorite teachers there is former men's lacrosse player Kevin Hunt '12. "Having Joe in the stands for almost every one of the home volleyball games was one of the greatest parts of playing on the court my senior year," she said. "His smile and laugh when he saw our team play was contagious. I am continuously inspired by his ability to bring a new level of joy and happiness every time he walks in the room. Whether a loss or a win, I could not have asked for a better and more committed fan to go talk to after each game. The Soares family is one incredible family."
By the second semester, Joe had become a committed member of the men's lacrosse program. "We 'drafted' Joey and made him a part of our team by giving him a uniform as well as plenty more men's lacrosse gear," said Cronin. "He didn't miss one home game and was right there with us on the sideline cheering his teammates on. When Joey was in attendance, it was almost like a different atmosphere on the field; everyone wanted to play for him and do their best and, for many of us, he was our motivation. He challenged us to fight adversity and give it our all on and off the field. At the end of each game, win or lose, we broke the huddle down on Joey with him in the middle. I'm so thankful that we took this challenge on as a team because I know this process has been beneficial to all of us. To know that we were able to have such an impact on Joey and his family's lives is an indescribable feeling. I look forward to our relationship developing and strengthening over the years, and I know we're going to miss him over the summer."
Men's lacrosse joins the baseball, field hockey, men's basketball and men's ice hockey programs in having partnered with Team IMPACT at Saint Michael's. Team IMPACT is a New England-based non‐profit organization serving children who are facing life‐threatening or chronic illnesses by creating unparalleled team-based support systems. Core to its model is leveraging the power of teamwork by matching up these courageous kids with college athletic teams. Saint Michael's joins many of their Northeast-10 Conference counterparts in being involved with Team IMPACT, such as Merrimack College, Saint Anselm College and Stonehill College, and fellow Vermont schools like Middlebury College and Norwich University.
For more information about Team IMPACT, visit goteamimpact.org.