As a little girl, Marianne Mahoney would tag along to sports arenas to cheer on her older brother’s hockey games. But when she entered Northeastern University’s Matthews Arena last Saturday, she was the one receiving the applause.
Mahoney, a 14-year-old Newton resident who has spina bifida, was drafted onto Northeastern’s women’s ice hockey team as a part of a program run by Team IMPACT, a Boston-based non-profit organization that matches children who face life-threatening and chronic illnesses with college athletic teams. More than 80 people looked on as the teenager, who has used a wheelchair all her life, signed a ‘letter of intent’ making her an honorary team player and the newest member of Northeastern’s athletic community.
Mahoney, who is the fifth child to be matched with an NU team through Team IMPACT, said she was excited to be part of the team.
“I’m looking forward to meeting new people,” she said. “I’m going to wear my new jersey a lot.”
Kelly Wallace, president of NU’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and a forward on the team, said the team’s goal is “to make [Mahoney] feel as welcome as we can.” She said the women’s hockey team had been waiting two years for a match with Team IMPACT.