Last Friday, the football team welcomed the newest member of their roster, Romil Peck-Moad, before its final home game of the season against Bates. Shortly before the Polar Bears ended practice, Peck-Moad gathered the team in a huddle, leading a “Go U Bears” chant wearing new Bowdoin apparel, a present from the team.
Only fourteen years old, Peck-Moad loves watching football and lacrosse like many of his new teammates. But he has a long history of medical problems that he continues to fight today, and which keep him from playing the sports he loves. In 2004, Peck-Moad came to Brunswick from Haiti to receive eye care through the efforts of the non-profit Children’s Medical Mission. He was diagnosed with Peter’s Anomaly, a rare disease that causes tissue in the front of his eye to develop irregularly. Peck-Moad has a prosthetic eye and also suffers from end-stage glaucoma, Pervasive Development Disorder, and ADHD.
After coming to Maine, Romil was adopted by Tracey Peck-Moad, a volunteer with Children’s Medical Mission.
“He is certainly the bravest kid I know,” she said. “He has endured everything and always does it with a smile on his face. I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of him.”
Peck-Moad was matched with Bowdoin’s football team through Team Impact, a non-profit organization which seeks to enrich the lives of children with life-threatening diseases by pairing them with college athletic teams. These children become official members of their team and forge bonds with student athletes and coaches.
Team Impact was founded in April 2011, inspired by Middlebury College’s long tradition of “Picking Up Butch” where Panther student athletes participate in a variety of activities to help Butch Varnos, a community resident with cerebral-palsy. Team Impact has made over 115 matches to-date across the northeast so far.
“I think the whole match-up process is really valuable for both the children and student athletes,” said Bryan McDavitt, Team Impact’s director of medical and athletic outreach, who was on hand at Friday’s event. “It’s really special for the child, to be in the thick of the things on the sideline with the team, and have support from a group they might not otherwise be able to be a part of. It also gives the student athletes a great deal of perspective—even though they might be frustrated with an injury or playing time, when you see someone going through a little more adversity, it puts the fact that you are able to play a college sport means you are very blessed.”
Friday’s practice was the first time Peck-Moad had the opportunity to meet the entire team. A week before, he met a handful of team members at brunch. After practice, he also played basketball and went to see a movie with some players. Peck-Moad joined his team on the sidelines during Saturday’s disappointing loss to Bates.
“He has a lot of brothers, and knows what it’s like to hang out with the guys, so I know he will have a good time,” Tracey Peck-Moad said.
Kevin Donohue, a sophomore linebacker on the team, has become very close to Peck-Moad.
“He’s really a great kid and the guys love hanging out with him,” Donohue said. “He is sometimes shy at first but has a great sense of humor.”
Other members of the team echoed Donohoe’s sentiment.
“We love to have him around I’m excited to welcome him to our family,” said junior Mike English.
Donohue, who volunteered for Team Impact over the summer, is Bowdoin’s On-Campus Ambassador for Team Impact. He helped match Peck-Moad with the football team and also helped pair the women’s soccer team with a young girl named Kiara from the Brunswick community.
“Our goal is to bring more children and teams together,” McDavitt added. “It really helps the child in a tough time in their medical journey gain the support and camaraderie that goes along with being a member of a team.”
Men’s Football Head Coach Dave Caputi says he was excited when he heard Peck-Moad was joining the team.
“It’s a small effort on our part but it makes a big difference,” he said. “It’s a rare opportunity that we, as a team, can do something really special.”