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Friday, December 08, 2023 — Houston, TX

Rice athletes make an IMPACT on Houston community

Ndidi Nwosu / Thresher

By Kelly Guo     9/26/23 11:48pm

When they aren’t at practice or zipping to class on their scooters, Rice’s student athletes have been working to connect with the Houston community.

Team IMPACT is a non-profit organization that pairs children dealing with serious illnesses and disabilities with college-level sports teams. Children will join a support system and have athletic opportunities that their health might otherwise make difficult to participate in. Meanwhile, college athletes will be able to bond and grow as a team, furthering their leadership and community engagement skills. 

Elizabeth Myers is a Team IMPACT student fellow representing Rice Athletics. She was initially acquainted with Team IMPACT in her first year of college.

“One of the seniors on the swim team learned about the program and proposed that our team could be involved by becoming matched to a child facing a severe illness,” Myers, a Jones College senior, wrote in an email to the Thresher.

When it comes to the matching process, every sports team has to go through a training process. The children will be officially inducted into the team after a signing day.

“We followed through and were matched with a young girl named Noura my sophomore year,” Myers wrote. “We had a signing day to bring her on as a part of our team — a ceremonial event every college athlete goes through to celebrate their official commitment to the team.”

Despite the scheduling challenges the team faced both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic, Rice swimmers said they were committed to maintaining a strong connection with Noura and her family.

“We stayed connected by sending videos such as ‘day-in-the-life’ and by writing notes,” Myers wrote. “When we were eventually able to meet more frequently in person, it was cool to see Noura and her siblings open up to us and continuously gain more excitement to be a part of the Rice swim team. It was also cool to see my teammates bond through these events.”

When asked to reflect on the previous partnership with Team IMPACT, Darrlyn McDonough, the director of operations for the women’s basketball team, expressed her appreciation for the program in an email to the Thresher.

“We were grateful to have the opportunity to partner with Team IMPACT and be a part of [our match] Addison’s life,” McDonough wrote. “Both our team and our staff enjoyed the opportunity to get to know her and build lasting friendships as she attended events and games with us. 

The meaningful connections Myers made with Noura eventually led her to apply to become a Team IMPACT student fellow. 

“I found myself developing leadership the two years we were matched,” Myers wrote. “The amazing experience I had getting to know and support our match prompted me to want to share that experience with others.”

The relationship between Team IMPACT and college sports teams typically lasts for two years. After the term, the children will “graduate,”  but that does not mean an end to the program. Since only one child can be matched with a sports team during the term, it opens up space for other children dealing with severe illness and disabilities.

Currently, Myers is working to increase the participation of Rice Athletics in the program.

“This year I am working with Travis Dowd, another Rice Team IMPACT fellow on the Cross Country and Track team,” Myers wrote. “Our main goal is to increase awareness of the program on campus and in the Rice community so that more of Rice Athletics can be involved. It would be cool to see more teams at Rice matched with children through Team IMPACT.”

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