In 2018, Team IMPACT launched its Fellowship Program and has since welcomed 304 Fellows from across the country. These Fellows represent Team IMPACT on their campuses and collaborate with their athletic departments and greater campus communities to raise awareness and increase program participation.
66% of Team IMPACT Fellows are female; as women in sports, these Fellows have been built and shaped not only by their athletic and campus communities but by their experiences with Team IMPACT.
Alaina Abel, Loyola University Chicago Women’s Soccer
Alaina Abel, a junior women’s soccer player at Loyola University in Chicago, is in her first year of the Team IMPACT Fellowship program. Her team was matched with 12-year-old Carlina last year. Alaina’s experiences as a Fellow and female athlete have strengthened her connection with Carlina and created a life-long friendship.
“After the addition of Carlina to our team, it has been evident that we were missing a piece of the puzzle all along. She has shown us what it means to be brave, resilient, and bold. From this, we have all had moments, on or off the field, where we can look to her to feel encouraged to keep pushing forward.
The light Carlina shines on everyone has shown me that, at the end of the day, the game itself is not all too important, but the relationships and memories you get to make along the way are. Most importantly, Carlina has taught me and my teammates to laugh, and to laugh loudly. Life is such a gift that we all need to be a little more grateful for, and Carlina is a prime example of making the world a kinder place.“
Angela Alibrandi, Tufts Women’s Basketball
Angela Alibrandi began her years-long relationship with Team IMPACT as a member of the leadership team when Tufts Women’s Basketball signed their second Team IMPACT teammate in 2017 during Angela’s freshman year. Her experience with her teammate Ashanti motivated her to get more involved with Team IMPACT, joining Team IMPACT’s first class of Fellows in 2018 — “and that was that!”
In the years since, Angela’s dedication to Team IMPACT and the Fellowship program has not wavered. She has helped the program grow from 12 Fellows in 2018 to more than 300 in 2022 and helped facilitate dozens of matches at Tufts and beyond. After graduating, Angela has stayed connected with Team IMPACT by attending Gala, sitting on the Fellowship Executive Board, and participating in Boston-area events throughout the year.
Sammie Stefan, Maryland Softball
Sammie Stefan’s friendship with her teammate Lily clicked the minute Sammie learned Lily was joining the Maryland Softball team. In no time, Sammie and Lily were having playdates, cheering each other on at games and practices, supporting each other through physical therapy, and quickly becoming “bestie friendzies” who even wore the same jersey number. When Sammie became a Team IMPACT Fellow in 2020, her bond with Lily — and Team IMPACT’s footprint within Maryland Athletics — only became stronger.
With Sammie leading the charge on campus, Maryland became Team IMPACT’s first partnership campus and welcomed six more Team IMPACT teammates and two more Fellows to Maryland’s Team IMPACT community. Sammie has since graduated from Maryland, but her friendship with Lily and her impact on both Maryland and Team IMPACT will last a lifetime.
“Lily has meant the world to myself and the girls at Maryland. She has been a part of the family since 2020, and our three-year relationship is going strong. One of my favorite memories with Lily is being invited to her birthday party and seeing her face light up when she was playing with friends. Team IMPACT’s goal is to help the social and emotional side, so seeing her confidence while playing with her friends meant a lot.
I love Lily’s laugh. Whenever I am able to go to her house for a playdate, I love the sound of her giggle echoing through the house. We always play with dolls and play games and I just love joking around and laughing with her. While I was a college athlete, my relationship with Lily gave me a bigger purpose for why I was playing. Looking into the stands and seeing Lily with her #24 jersey on meant the world to me.”
Emily Duerr, Duke Women’s Soccer
Emily Duerr, a senior forward on the Duke Women’s Soccer team, joined the Fellowship Program in 2019. When Emmy first became a Fellow, there was only one match on Duke’s campus. In the time since, that number has grown to six, including one on her own team with six-year-old Perry in March of 2022. Perry signed with the Blue Devils during a rough spot in their season and immediately gave the team the spark they were looking for. Inspired by her teammates, Perry joined her own soccer team this year, and her team supports her from the sidelines just as she has supported them all season.
“Being part of Team IMPACT for the last three or four years of my college experience has genuinely been just the most impactful and most rewarding thing I’ve done since I’ve been in school, and I can just see the way that Perry affects me, the way that Perry affects my teammates — just an absolutely incredible program and an incredible little girl.”
Sanaea Simmons, Holy Cross Women’s Volleyball
Sanaea Simmons, a current junior on the Holy Cross Women’s Volleyball team, is in her first year of the Fellowship Program. Eight-year-old Lulu joined the team in December of Sanaea’s sophomore year, and by the end of the season, Sanaea knew Lulu and Team IMPACT would be instrumental to her college experience — and life beyond Holy Cross.
“Lulu brings so much energy to every activity that we plan. I remember first meeting her and she would stay extremely quiet and close to her mom. Now she is so much more comfortable with us and enjoys being around, whether that be telling us about her day or just passing around a volleyball. She has grown so much in just one year with Team IMPACT.
My favorite memory is when we threw a team ice cream party on campus. Usually we plan events and outings to get Lulu and the team together, but this one was her idea. Her older brother plays on a baseball team and they have ice cream parties at the end of their season, so she felt it just as important to celebrate the end of our season!”