Head Football Coach Mark Henninger spoke at Team IMPACT’s Annual Game Day Gala in Boston on March 24, 2016.
Henninger was invited to share his story—the story of the Marian University football team’s journey with Cole Winnefeld, a young boy from Bedford, Indiana, fighting cancer. Their friendship captivated the Marian University community and the greater-Indianapolis community. From locker room pep talks, to fifth grade graduations, to trips to the national championship game, to chemo treatments and visits to the hospital, their friendship and the impact they had on one another was epic.
"Our relationship with Team Impact and with Cole is life changing for everyone in our program," Henninger said. "Cole taught our players so many things (perspective, love, toughness, etc.) and it was great having our players witness Cole’s toughness as he bravely fought that terrible disease."
Team IMPACT, the organization that connected the football team with Cole, invited one coach (Henninger), one parent, and a panel of players and kids to speak at the event. The organization aims to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illness through the power of team by matching courageous kids like Cole with local college athletic teams.
"Cole, his story, and our relationship with him defines who we are as a program and, in many ways, who we strive to be," Henninger said. "I am so honored to have had the opportunity to travel to Boston, represent Marian University, and tell our story to the thousand or so people present. Team Impact is changing the lives of young people all over the country and I am so proud of Marian University and our department’s coaches and players currently involved with the organization. This is what Being A Knight is all about."
Team IMPACT children are drafted onto the team and become an official member of the team from draft day through to graduation. The child joins the athletic team and the student athletes join the child’s support team.
Team IMPACT has matched two more children to Marian University, one will sign with the tennis program and one with men’s basketball.