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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC field hockey partners with Team IMPACT to welcome new member to team

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Members of the UNC field hockey team pose at a "Team IMPACT" event on Sunday, Aug. 20th, 2023 in Karen Shelton Stadium.

The North Carolina field hockey program has a new member, but she won't be competing on the field.

Emma, a participant of the Team IMPACT program, officially joined the Tar Heels prior to their exhibition matchup with Duke in August, complete with a signing ceremony. She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in August 2019, but has been in remission and off treatment for two years.

The Team IMPACT program matches children with serious illnesses or disabilities to college sports teams. As stated on its website, its seeks to guide children and teams alike in a mutually beneficial relationship of belonging, empowerment, and resilience.

The program was founded in 2011 by a group of eight former college athletes in Boston who wanted to celebrate teams' power of community by giving children the opportunity to experience it for themselves. The family of the child submits an application through Team IMPACT and is matched with a collegiate program in their area.

Emma was matched with the UNC field hockey team this season.

“It took about three or four weeks before she actually got matched with the field hockey team,” Emma’s mother, Ashley, said. “Her doctor was the one that actually initiated everything for us.”

Other than being an official member of the team, Emma is able to fully immerse herself in the field hockey world.

“She will be able to start coming out on the field with us when we have actual games, she has a chair in the locker room, we gave her a stick, we’re gonna get her a uniform she can wear,” senior back Dorrit Eisenbeis said. “She is fully a part of the team.”

Emma, who is from Pinehurst, N.C., travels with her family to Chapel Hill for doctor's appointments. Ashley said her family also plans to make the commute for the team’s home games and other events in order for her to get the full experience of being a North Carolina field hockey player.

In addition to attending the team’s games in Chapel Hill, Emma and her mother traveled to Old Dominion for the Tar Heels’ matchup against the Monarchs in September.

“Her and I went up there the night prior to their game and surprised them all at dinner,” Ashley said. “We were able to sneak in and stay at the same hotel that the girls were at and we went and did ice cream with them after dinner.”

The team has organized bonding activities for Emma to participate in, such as a scavenger hunt around Karen Shelton Stadium. Emma’s family also participated in the All In 5k — a race organized by Team IMPACT in which families take donations for the organization. The family participated in the race with UNC’s team in early October

Despite being in remission for two years, Emma finds coming to Chapel Hill to bond with a highly-acclaimed field hockey program is much more exciting than attending doctor’s appointments. Ashley said that instead of associating the town with medical treatments, she associates it with “getting to see the girls.”

Eisenbeis, a fellow with Team IMPACT, is responsible for spreading the word about the program across campus and throughout the state. She also led the signing ceremony for Emma and has facilitated her transition to being a team member.

With Eisenbeis leading the way, everyone connected to the field hockey program has welcomed Emma with open arms and has made her feel seen.

“Everyone from the staff to the team to the support staff has been embracing her,” head coach Erin Matson said. “She seems happy, she has a smile every time she comes. It’s super important to do what we do on the field, but also we understand that we have an impact even more off of it.”


@dthsports |

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