Purple and gold balloons arched the entryway at St. Michael’s College’s student lounge as Maureen Eddy moseyed through a tunnel of raised field hockey sticks last weekend, a group of 25 women cheering her on.
Eddy, a senior at South Burlington High School, has been a part of the St. Michael’s College field hockey team since she was in eighth grade. The hoots and hollers that filled Eddie’s Lounge on Saturday morning were just the beginnings of Eddy’s impactful graduation ceremony.
Matched with the group through Team IMPACT, an organization that connects kids with chronic or life-threatening illnesses to sports teams, Eddy said the experience has been one of the more enjoyable feats she’s tried through her diagnosis of cystic fibrosis.
“It can take over a lot of your life, especially in times when you’re not well,” her mother, Laurie Eddy, said of the disorder, which affects the cells that produce mucus, sweat and digestive fluids. “To have something that wasn’t about CF, but came about because of it, it’s just so valuable.”
As Eddy and her family found their seats, players and coaches took to the microphone to wish Eddy well in her post-high school journey.
Eddy is taking a gap year before accepting her bid at Maine’s New England College in 2018. With dreams of being a zoologist, Eddy plans to study animal behavior.
First, though, she hopes to work at the Dolphin Research Center in Florida and get some volunteerism and internships under her belt, she said.
Eddy’s “teammates” — or big sisters, as she called them — portrayed the senior’s love for animals in a series of gifts, many of them elephant themed.
What this experience has gifted Eddy most, she said, is a perspective into college. Even though she doesn’t consider herself athletic, she learned what it’s like to be part of a team. She saw college isn’t all about school; it’s about socializing and creating your own little family, she said.
Every fall, the field hockey family arrived in a sea of purple to the annual cystic fibrosis walk in Burlington, a memorable event for the Eddys, coaches and players alike.
The players said they’ve learned more about cystic fibrosis and the effect it can have on people like Eddy. On the outside, it’s hard to tell Eddy has a disorder, her mom explained.
According to St. Michael’s senior Caroline Avery, Eddy’s just another Purple Knight.
“She’s just on the sidelines like the rest of the team,” Avery said. “It’s not like she’s any different from [the other players]. She’s part of the team.”
In fact, Eddy is the longest-standing purple and gold field hockey player to date. When Eddy was first matched with the team as an eighth-grader, she had some nerves jumping into a group of collegiate athletes.
To her surprise, though, her kindergarten teacher, Anne Noone Adams, was an assistant coach. Having this connection, she said, helped her settle in more comfortably.
Soon, the players started to understand Eddy’s life off the sidelines, Adams said.
“When the girls on the field hockey team understand what Maureen has to go through to get through her day, it’s very humbling,” Adams added.
As the gift-giving wrapped up and hugs spread, another sea of purple bolted through the Lounge doors Saturday: a group of alumni.
Among them was 2014 graduate Jackie Chisholm, who was a sophomore when Eddy first became a Purple Knight. At least five other St. Michael’s teams have worked with Team IMPACT now, the college’s athletic communications director Josh Kessler said.
The Eddy family, players and Team IMPACT representatives were honored at the Vermont Statehouse Tuesday for their work in raising awareness for cystic fibrosis.
All Team IMPACT relationships, Laurie Eddy said, aren’t as lengthy and extensive as her daughter’s. She credited the sustained value to head coach Carla Hesler, who always checked in about Eddy’s medical appointments; Chisholm and other players sometimes accompanied Eddy, keeping her distracted and entertained during the two-hour visits.
Chisholm stood at the front of the room, grasping the attention of the younger generation players as she discussed her privilege in knowing Eddy and seeing what she goes through every day.
Promising not to cry, the former captain spoke of the college experience awaiting Eddy, hoping her journey with the team enlightened her for the fun times to come.
“You’re gonna do amazing things and you’re gonna just blow the world away with what you can do,” Chisholm said.