written by KEN HAMWEY, Bulletin Sports Editor
Michael Boddy (left) is 14 years old and part of a well-known family in Bellingham, living with his parents, Anne and Charles, and his brother Sean; but on March 28 the Mount St. Charles freshman became an honorary member of a second family—the Holy Cross ice hockey team.
Thanks to Team Impact, a Boston-based non-profit whose mission is “to improve the quality of life for children facing serious and chronic illnesses through the power of team,” Michael became a member of the Crusaders’ hockey squad when he signed a letter of intent as the school’s top recruit.
He was welcomed by head coach David Berard, assistant coach Tom Hill and the entire team at the Hart Center Auditorium. They presented him with a No. 19 hockey jersey, a tee-shirt, a sweatshirt and two hats. As a team member, he will attend practices, games, team dinners and other events.
Michael’s illness is immune dysfunction, which he deals with on three fronts. He suffers from primary immune deficiency disease, Ehlers-Danlos disease and mitochondrial disease.
“The immune deficiency disease prevents his body from producing enough antibodies to fight infection,” said his mother, Anne. “Ehlers-Danlos is a connective tissue disease that causes joint instability and pain, and mitochondrial disease prevents him from having a normal energy level. Because of Michael’s immune deficiency disease, he gets weekly infusions of gamma globulin.”
At one year of age, Michael was detected with primary immune deficiency. At six years old he was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos disease, and then mitochondrial disease followed. “We encourage Michael to try everything physical and he can do most activities, but his endurance is limited,” Anne said. “He tried soccer and lacrosse, but he can’t compete or be involved with team sports.”
That all changed on March 28 when Michael became an honorary member of the Holy Cross hockey team. It’s a day he calls “extraordinary and special.”
Coaches Berard and Hill emphasized their delight in adding him to their roster. “I know Michael is a good kid who’s faced adversity,” Berard said. “I like the way he’s handled his difficulties. I also admire his musical aptitude [he plays the trombone, guitar, mandolin and ukulele]. He’ll be a great addition to our team.”
Hill stressed that he likes two attributes that define Michael. “Our team focuses constantly on hard work and being resilient,” Hill noted. “Those obviously are traits that Michael has, and that makes him a good match for our team.”
At a press conference, Michael emphasized how kind, welcoming and respectful the coaches and players were. “I’m so excited,” he said. “I’ve now got a new group of close friends and although I’m looking forward to the games, practices and events next season, I’m more excited about the friendships.”
He regards that No. 19 hockey shirt (19 represents the calendar year) as very special. “The shirt is symbolic,” he said. “It’s a sign of kindness.”
The four players who will be Michael’s main contacts in the years ahead are Jack Surowiec, a junior forward from Louisville, KY; Logan Ferguson, a sophomore forward from Calgary, Alberta; Matt Slick, a freshman defenseman from Buffalo, NY; and Mitch Collett, a senior forward from Calgary, Alberta.
Another player, Bryce Dolan, has a link to Mount St. Charles, where Michael is a Junior National Honor Society member who enjoys math and science. “Bryce told me he played hockey at Bishop Hendricken High School [Warwick, RI],” Michael said, “and, when he was there, he played against Mount St. Charles.”
In February, a month before signing his letter of intent, Michael was given a personal tour of the college’s hockey facilities and later teamed up with his four contact players. “They had dinner on campus and learned about each other,” Anne said. “They talked about their classes and their interests. Michael also met several other players. Overall, that was a great evening.”
The partnership with Holy Cross’ hockey team has a deep meaning for Michael. It isn’t just about watching games. Because of his limitations, he says he’s encountered people who are not welcoming and even impatient. “In spite of what I have to deal with, this makes me feel really good,” he said about the Crusaders players and coaches. “It’s a big plus.”
Another plus for Michael and his family was hearing about Team Impact and later contacting the organization for a potential partnership with an athletic team.
“I had heard about the group from a friend and later from the child life specialist at Mass. General Hospital,” said Anne, who teaches at the DiPietro School. “Last summer, Michael was at a camp for seriously ill children in Ashford, CT, and Charles and I spent a weekend there during a fall retreat. Parents there recommended Team Impact. We went online, filling out forms about Michael’s history, health care and doctors. When we got notice of his approval, they selected the college and the team. A hockey setting was a good choice because he’s better when heat is at a minimum.”
Anne is delighted with the way Team Impact has fulfilled its role. “They’ve done everything they said they’d do,” she noted. They maintained communication with the team, and the great thing about this opportunity is that Michael now has connections to a world outside of school and doctors, which is where he spends most of his time.”
According to a Team Impact press release, the non-profit since 2011 has matched more than 1,700 children with 500 colleges and universities in 49 states, reaching 50,000 participating student-athletes. “The child joins the athletic team and the student-athletes join the child’s support team,” the release said.“ Throughout the journey, the child gains strengths, camaraderie and support while the student-athletes experience lessons of courage, resiliency and perspective they can’t learn in a classroom.”
Michael is extremely thankful for being linked to the Holy Cross hockey team, and he’s quick to acknowledge his parents for getting the relationship underway. “They deserve the credit,” he emphasized. “All the credit.”
Michael’s tenure with the team will conclude in several years when he’s officially declared an alumnus. At that juncture, a lifetime bond will have been established, and there’s a good chance that ice hockey will have replaced football as his favorite sport.