On Becoming That Someone 2017
The following story was published in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of Saint Francis Magazine, but its message still resonates with the students, faculty and staff. To "Become That Someone" is a theme that remains relevant today, and every day.
A poster that once hung above the bed of Maurice Stokes read, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” This quote sums up perfectly the inspirational brotherhood of former Saint Francis basketball star Maurice Stokes and his NBA teammate Jack Twyman, and, over the course of this year, has also started to ring true for many of Saint Francis University’s current student-athletes as well.
Through the University’s recent partnership with Team IMPACT, an organization chartered to improve the quality of life for children facing “Believe, believe, believe” Student-athletes “Become that Someone” through partnership with Team IMPACT life-threatening or chronic illnesses, members of both the football and men’s basketball teams have discovered the true meaning behind the Red Flash theme, "Become that Someone".
In 2014, the players welcomed a new teammate to each of their respective teams—11-year-old Brent Zierer signed his national letter of intent with Red Flash football in April 2014 and 13-year-old Jorden McClure was drafted to the men’s basketball team in February 2014. It was then that the student-athletes began to learn just how much of an impact they can have when they reach out to someone in need of friendship and brotherhood, just as Twyman did for Stokes nearly 60 years ago.
Since their signings, both Brent and Jorden have remained invaluable members of their teams. Attending practices, sitting sideline at the games and offering advice to teammates, they are like little brothers to their fellow athletes.
“The whole team has taken him in,” said junior physical therapy major and Red Flash forward from Jamestown, Ohio, Ronnie Drinnon. “It’s not just a team thing—it’s a brotherhood basically.”
Making an IMPACT
Harnessing the power of teamwork, Team IMPACT matches courageous kids with college athletic teams across America. The Boston-based nonprofit partners with colleges and universities to draft Team IMPACT children onto local athletic teams, allowing them to become official members of the team for the duration of their treatment.
“At first we were unsure of how it would be to have Jorden join the team, but since he was signed, he has made a huge impact on the entire team, and even more so on the campus,” Drinnon said. “Everyone supports him, and cares for him. He really is a member of the campus community.”
Team IMPACT stands for Inspire, Motivate, and Play Against Challenges Together, and that is precisely what the program aims to do. The relationship between a Team IMPACT child and his/her team is focused on increasing emotional, social, physical and aca- demic success. When a child is signed, the family joins the athletic team, and in turn, the teammates join the family support system. The experience serves as an exciting distraction from the children’s medical realities, especially the stress of treatment, and allows them the opportunity to be a kid, surrounded by a group of mentors who make eating right, exercise and studying a priority.
“It’s really put a lot of things into perspective for our student-athletes. It’s something they’ve really rallied around,” said John Krimmel, associate director for student-athelete and leadership development at Saint Francis. “The student-athletes may be sore after practice, or may be stressed about an upcoming test, but they don’t have to face daily life living with a chronic or life-threatening illness, like these kids do.”
According to Krimmel, Saint Francis’ involvement with Team IMPACT is based on the number of kids in the local area who have reached out to the organization. Those kids are then placed with sports teams that fit best with each child’s expressed interest.
A part of the team
The Red Flash first got involved with Team IMPACT when student-athlete Kellie Mason, who now works as the assistant director of student-athlete academic services at Saint Francis, reached out to establish a partner- ship with the organization through the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Mason, who is originally from the northeast, local to the home of Team IMPACT, heard about the program and believed Saint Francis would be a perfect fit for children in need. “The student-athletes absolutely love it, and it’s something we always want to continue to do,” said Krimmel. “We have more [Red Flash] teams interested, and we’re trying to create more awareness of Team IMPACT. The organization is constantly signing new kids every single day at different college teams across the country.”
Both the football and men’s basket- ball teams have appointed leadership groups that work closely with Team IMPACT as representatives for their respective teams. In addition, women’s basketball player Hope Phillips has been appointed as the campus ambas- sador to the organization – staying in contact with both Brent and Jorden’s families to keep them connected to the University and Team IMPACT. “[Appointing an ambassador] is a way that we can get even more student-athletes involved with Team IMPACT,” Krimmel said. “Hope can stay connected even though women’s basketball doesn’t have its own child team member.”
Since Brent and Jorden joined the Red Flash more than a year ago, both are now recognized as popular members of the Red Flash campus community. Both stay in contact with their teammates even in the offseason, and they become involved in other on-campus activities as well. Krimmel said that Brent recently acted as a judge at the annual Mr. SFU Pageant, and Jorden has attended almost every home basketball game, joining the team in the locker room and giving them advice.
“There needs to be constant communication between the team and the kid,” Krimmel said, adding that both Brent and Jorden either text or call their teammates almost daily. “It’s a year-round relationship. It’s not something that just happens over one semester.” Krimmel said that through their association with Saint Francis, Brent and Jorden have also grown close to each other. He said making connections with other kids who are also suffering from chronic illnesses is important to the mission of Team IMPACT to pro- vide support and friendship.
Becoming that someone
While it is their responsibility to act as mentors for Brent and Jorden, members of both the football and men’s bas- ketball teams have oftentimes found themselves inspired by their younger teammates. The boys’ resilient spirits and positive attitudes in the face of their illnesses is something that pro- vides encouragement and motivation to the Red Flash student-athletes, in work and in play.
“Jorden’s attitude amazes me,” said Drinnon. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without a smile on his face. For someone in his circumstances, he’s one of the most positive kids I’ve ever seen.” “During a game with Robert Morris, right after they went on a run, everyone was feeling really down and getting discouraged,” added rising senior Greg Brown, a management informa- tion systems major and Red Flash guard from Odenton, Md. “Jorden came into the huddle, and told us to just believe, believe, believe. He told everyone to believe, and lifted everyone’s spirit after that.”
It is Jorden’s confidence in himself and his team that has made such a difference in the basketball players’ lives. In return, the team does as much as they can to make a difference for him. Drinnon said that he and other mem- bers of the team often text Jorden just to check in, and do their best to attend his summer baseball games to cheer him on. He said they also visited Jorden on his birthday, bringing him a cake and singing “Happy Birthday.”
Similarly, members of the Red Flash football team have said that Brent has also become “just one of the guys,” and the team is happy to have him around whether on or off the field. They all agree that he is influencing their lives just as much as they may be influencing his.
“They call it Team IMPACT for a reason; it definitely has an impact on us as a team,” said Capri Thompson, a rising senior quarterback and manage- ment major from Clairton, Pa. “For us, playing football for a Division I school is an amazing opportunity. [Brent] has a chronic illness, and he’ll never be able to do what we can do, but he never complains. We look at him and learn that things could always be worse.”
“He’s one of our buddies, and he wants to hang out with us, and do stuff with us outside of the team,” added tight end Matt Camilletti, a rising senior management and marketing major from Bangor, Pa. “He doesn’t even think about his disability when he’s with the team.”
Just like Jorden, the football players say that it is Brent’s attitude toward life that they find to be the most uplifting, and they continue to be inspired by his courage every day. His unremitting “good heart” in spite of his illness is what they believe makes Brent such a unique kid.
"When we were going to a game at Bowling Green, Brent found out that the Bowling Green team also had a Team IMPACT kid. He wrote him a nice note inside a card, and took it to him,” Thompson said. “The other kid wasn’t at the game, so Brent wasn’t able to give it to him. But it just goes to show how kind Brent is – he didn’t even know the kid, and he still took the time to write him a note. He’s always reaching out to other kids.”
“Brent also led us onto the field during our game at Youngstown State in front of thousands of people,” added Camilletti. “It was a great experience for him. We lost that game, but he didn’t care. He was just happy to be there, and be a part of something.” Since Saint Francis first partnered with Team IMPACT, the experiences that the student-athletes have shared with Jorden and Brent have inspired them to continue to do what they can for others. In keeping with the Red Flash’s theme of “Become that Someone,” inspired by the story of Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman, the players are striving to be role models, cheerleaders, and brothers for their teammates, especially Jorden and Brent. They have all rallied together as individual teams, but also as an organization and campus community to be someone that the boys can rely on and turn to for friendship and support.
“Our theme of ‘Become that Someone’ is inspired by the bond between Jack Tywman and Maurice Stokes. It’s about lending a hand to a person in need, and we’re embodying that,” said Camilletti. “We’re becoming that someone for Brent. We’ve become his friends and his big brothers.”
“Team IMPACT helps not just an individual become that someone, but it helps the whole team rally together to be a support system for Jorden,” Brown added. “It’s not just us making a difference in his life. He’s really making a big difference in ours.”