Emma Joins UNC Field Hockey For Historic Championship Win

This past August, members of the UNC field hockey team posed with their new Team IMPACT teammate Emma to officially sign her onto the team. The event marked a celebratory moment for her and her family from the last few years after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in August 2019. In remission now for two years, Emma’s doctor Patrick Thompson shares why it’s necessary for Emma and other children with serious illness to be a part of Team IMPACT.

“A serious childhood illness has effects that are far greater than the medical. When children are in medical care for diseases, like cancer, they experience profound social isolation. They are out of school and out of touch with their friends. So, our care needs to be holistic and that is where TEAM IMPACT can help. Being part of a TEAM IMPACT team is the best and most effective medicine to help the social isolation and absence of community that patients feel.”

“Being part of a TEAM IMPACT team is the best and most effective medicine to help the social isolation and absence of community that patients feel.”

– Dr. Patrick A. Thompson

Over the last few months, Emma has bonded with the team and coaching staff – from having her own spot in the team locker room and team uniform to joining the team in a scavenger hunt and the Team IMPACT All In 5K. During the season, coach Erin Matson reminded the team “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.” This mentality led the Tar Heels to their championship match-up this past weekend, and Emma was alongside them for all of it. Shares Emma’s mom, “It was amazing to watch her cheer on the girls, run on the field and give all of them hugs and share in cutting the winning net with them. Afterwards, we went with all the girls and staff/parents to celebrate with them downtown on Franklin St.”

While the Tar Heels are enjoying the win, student-athlete and Team IMPACT Fellow Dorrit Eisenbeis called Emma a “fierce spark” for her and her teammates on their journey to the title.

“I truly think all of her pre-game fist bumps and little motivational speeches helped us to dig a little deeper when we needed to and find the will to win. She definitely played a big role in this win!”

– Dorrit Eisenbeis, UNC Field Hockey

As players head home for the holidays, championship in tow, they are grateful for Emma, and Emma grateful for them. As they move forward into next semester, practices, and looking forward to next season, regardless of what happens, Emma and her teammates are learning from each other. Notes Coach Erin Matson 48 hours after the win, “I know I speak for the entire program when I say we are so grateful Emma will forever be a part of our memories from this season. There are not 28 sisters who could love and respect her more.”

I cannot imagine a better TEAM IMPACT experience than Emma has had. She is a national champion! But even before the NCAA tournament, the UNC Women’s Field Hockey Program provided Emma a championship experience. 

Dr. Patrick A. Thompson, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Fellowship Director, Division of Hematology-Oncology UNC