By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Hudson – Keegan Concannon, 13, has been too sick to go to school since September. That, however, has not stopped him from participating in the game he loves – football.
Concannon, who suffers from an illness that severely weakens his immune system, officially signed on as a member of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) football team Feb. 28 after playing football in Hudson and getting to know the WPI team over almost five months through the Team IMPACT program.
“I’m excited to be able to go to all the games and stand on the sidelines and stuff,” Concannon said of the opportunity. “Going to the practices and hanging out with some of the players [will be fun].”
Team IMPACT works to make experiences like that possible, placing children facing “serious and chronic illness” on college athletic teams in a variety of sports.
Since connecting with WPI through the program, Concannon has had team members text him during his hospitalizations and even visit him in the hospital.
“Getting involved with Team IMPACT, already, in just a short amount of time, has been amazing for Keegan,” said his mother, Laura Concannon. “It’s given him a positive outlook on what can be dark days for a young man like him who does not have a lot of friends.”
To minimize the risk to his depleted immune system, Concannon’s family has to prioritize when and for how long he leaves his house. He has undergone extended hospital stays and has not been able to attend school in roughly five months.
Through his sickness, however, Concannon still suited up for a pair of Hudson Youth Football games this fall, playing, according to his mother, even after undergoing eight-hour medical transfusions to supplement his immune system.
Those experiences, Laura Concannon said, prompted Keegan to “hold out” for a football team to offer a partnership even as Team IMPACT offered spots on area basketball and softball teams, among other sports.
“He is on the sideline for those games and practices just like all the other kids but he hasn’t been played a lot,” Laura said. “So when we found out about Team IMPACT, he really wanted to be part of a football team because he just loves being part of the team.”
When WPI offered in October to welcome him onto their team, the Concannons said, their wait had been worthwhile.
The family traveled to Worcester shortly after being matched with WPI to watch a team practice. Afterwards, Laura said, players introduced themselves to Keegan and held a pizza party for him.
“We are very blessed and so thankful to Team IMPACT,” she said. “And we are incredibly grateful that the WPI football team and the coaches have been so incredible with Keegan.”
Now that he has signed with WPI, Concannon will spend games on the sideline with the team, continuing to connect with players and coaches he has quickly come to know well.
In the meantime, with Keegan still too sick to go back to school, Concannon and his family are happy to have a program that balances their anxiety and struggles surrounding Keegan’s health with a positive experience.
“It’s been difficult,” Laura Concannon said. “Because he’s been so sick we’ve had to limit the time that he’s out and about. His signing…is huge for him.”