“These kids gain 20 older brothers or sisters they can lean on.”

Duke Little

A member at Boston College Club, Boston, since 2008

BY ALEX ETHRIDGE / PHOTO BY HEATHER MCGRATH — Summer 2015

Who he is: Executive director of Team Impact, a national nonprofit organization that improves the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses by pairing them with university sports teams, such as Boston College’s football team and Vanderbilt University’s women’s basketball team. The kids become official team members and build relationships with the student athletes mentoring them.

Team players: The kids participate in a “draft day” signing ceremony, receive team apparel, and attend practices, games, and other team events.

Place to belong: “They’re not known as the sick kid when they come to their teammates’ practices. They’re not being bullied, they’re not alone in the cafeteria. They gain confidence, they gain strength, courage, communication skills, and social skills.”

Win-win situation: The student athletes become part of the kids’ support teams, as well, visiting them in the hospital and checking in periodically. “The most common comment I hear from the athletes is what a humbling experience it is,” Little says, adding that seeing the hardships these children have to overcome helps college students gain perspective and appreciate their own health.

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