Pediatric patients win through Team Impact

September 05, 2018

HERSHEY, Pa. — Teagan Imler is a big basketball fan, so it was hard when muscular dystrophy left the 11-year-old boy from Everett, Pennsylvania, wheelchair-bound a little more than a year ago.

“He has had to give up a lot of things that his friends are still doing,” said his mother, Crystal Imler.

Last month, Paula Cameron, pediatric clinical case manager at Penn State Children’s Hospital, helped Teagan, a pediatric patient, get matched with the Penn State Altoona men’s basketball team through Team IMPACT. The national nonprofit organization connects children who face serious and chronic illnesses with college athletic teams that support them through their medical journey.

“A lot of the children want to play with their friends and participate in sports, but they can’t because of their condition, so they get down and out about it,” Cameron said.

Freddy Romero Cabrera, a 15-year-old from Lebanon, was another patient at Penn State Children’s Hospital. He lives with his grandparents, far from his older brothers, and the transition from middle school to high school was difficult for him.

“We felt he really needed some positive activities in his life and some older, male role models,” Cameron said.

The Lebanon Valley College men's lacrosse team “drafted” Cabrera as an official member in March. Since then, he has attended games and team dinners and was featured in the Lebanon Daily News. He proudly wears his team jersey every chance he gets.

“It’s wonderful to see how much being part of the team has helped him,” said his grandmother, Ana Jimenez.

Amanda Palmer, Team IMPACT Mid-Atlantic Region director, said the program has paired nearly 1,600 children ages 5 to 16 with close to 600 college athletic teams nationwide during its seven years of operation.

Teams make a two-year commitment to the child, inviting him or her to practices, games, team social outings and even into the locker room before, during and after games. Team members also visit the child when he or she is in the hospital for treatment.

“The children involved in Team IMPACT often get a boost of confidence, a sense of belonging and a greater feeling of optimism,” Palmer said. “For the college athletes, the benefits are that they become more empathetic and civic-minded leaders.”

Cameron said that Dr. William Trescher, a pediatric neurologist at the Children’s Hospital, and Dr. Kristine Fortuna, an orthopedic surgeon at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, have supported working with Team IMPACT. She hopes to match more patients through the program in the coming months.

“Team IMPACT really changes young patients’ lives because it gives them role models and people who are really, truly friends," said Cameron.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 05, 2018