Ethan from Berkley MA, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in January of 2011. As a result, Ethan has spent the last 11 months undergoing chemotherapy and steroid treatments at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute that will hopefully make him cancer free. Like many cancer patients, Ethan has found that going through this type of treatment is not only demanding on his body, but also very isolating. Plucked from his normal routine of school and playing with friends, Ethan was thrown into a scary whirlwind of IV's, tests, and hospital visits. It is during these tough times where people learn to lean on something or someone to help get them through. For Ethan, this has been the 34 members of the Brown Bears hockey team.
Growing up, many kids have a hero they idolize. In some cases it may be a famous musician or an award winning actor. To others, it may be a professional athlete or even a brilliant scientist. Regardless of who it may be, a child's idol can have an incredible impact on their life. They can help shape a child's hopes and dreams, and even direct them down a path in which they strive to be just like their childhood hero. To 7 year old Ethan, no one is held on a higher pedestal than Brown men's ice hockey team.
Throughout this experience, the team has made it clear to Ethan that he is not alone in his fight against leukemia. The team has been supporting Ethan through his treatment and they have become brothers, teammates, and idols to young Ethan.
Ethan, who found out about the organization from another Team IMPACT family, was drafted on to the Brown hockey team on October 5, 2011 and became the youngest Brown Bear to join the squad. As an official teammate, Ethan was outfitted with a team jersey and has become a constant presence at practices, in the locker room before games, and even laced up his skates for the first time and was taught how to skate by his 34 teammates.
Ethan spent time with his team on the ice learning to skate, shoot, and score all in one practice. The determination Ethan showed on the ice was emblematic of the courage he shows in his on-going fight with leukemia. Ethan's mom Debbie said of Ethan's time with the team, "Every time we go to the rink we feel like we are a big part of the team. Ethan's been learning about the sport, about teamwork, and learning how to skate. Every single moment around the team has been a special moment for Ethan and our entire family."
Since Draft Day, the team has started the hockey season and Ethan and his family have continued to build their relationship with the team both on and off the ice. Any day when Ethan is overwhelmed by his treatment, the team, and in particular assistant captain Bobby Farnham, has been there to console him. When Ethan just wants someone to talk to, Bobby will sit on the phone for as long as Ethan wants, talking about the life and times of a 7 year old fighting a life-threatening disease. When Ethan begged his Dad to build an ice rink in their back yard, Bobby was the first person to strap on a tool belt and head out to Berkley, MA to build the backyard rink.
When a child is diagnosed, every member of the family, including the siblings, has their own set of challenges to contend with. Not only has the Brown hockey team embraced Ethan, but consistent with the training Team IMPACT provides for the players, they have embraced the entire family. In the words of Ethan's Dad, "Not a day goes by when he doesn't ask for Bobby and the guys on the team. This has been incredible not only for him but our entire family. It is the best therapy imaginable." Consistent with an Ivy League effort, not only has the Brown hockey program embraced Ethan's entire family, but through this connection, Ethan's sister Madeline was recently adopted by the Brown women's gymnastics team. Both children are now going to be Brown Bears for life.
At each home game, Ethan greets the team with a fist bump and wishes them good luck right before they hit the ice. As Ethan's father noted, "Not many kids can say they have 34 big brothers; every single one of them has made an impact on him."