SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (April 17, 2018) – The Western New England University men's lacrosse team partnered with Team IMPACT to sign 10-year old Andrew Stark of Hampden, Mass. on Monday afternoon at the Alumni Healthful Living Center.
Andrew's parents, Julie and Craig, as well as head coach John Klepacki and members of the men's lacrosse team were present as he signed an official letter of intent to join the Golden Bears' program.
Andrew was diagnosed with T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2013 when he was five years old. After relapsing three times the following year, Andrew was finally declared to be in remission in March of 2015. He then underwent a bone marrow transplant with his sister Emily serving as the donor.
Andrew has been healthy since the transplant, and was able to return to school in December of 2015.
"As coaches, we felt that the opportunity to work with Team IMPACT and have our student-athletes be a part of a young person's life and help him through his recovery would be a very positive experience," Coach Klepacki explained.
"It's been great to have such a supportive little guy around our team and see him open up more and more with each visit. What Andrew and the Stark family have done for the WNE Lacrosse program is far greater than what we feel we have done for him," Klepacki continued.
Andrew has attended each of Western New England's weekday home games since spring break, and he even made the trip to Bristol, R.I. this past Saturday to see the Golden Bears defeat Roger Williams, 12-8.
"I am very proud of the way our players have responded to their new teammate. Additionally, I thank the staff at Team IMPACT for their professionalism throughout the process," Klepacki concluded.
Team IMPACT is a national nonprofit headquartered in Boston, MA that connects children facing serious or chronic illnesses with college athletic teams, forming life-long bonds and life-changing outcomes. Since 2011, Team IMPACT has matched more than 1,400 children with more than 500 colleges and universities in 47 states, reaching over 50,000 participating student-athletes. The child joins the athletic team and the student-athletes join the child's support team. Throughout the journey, the child gains strength, camaraderie and support while the student-athletes experience lessons of courage, resiliency and perspective they can't learn in a classroom.