The football team has been active on the field recently as it prepares for its season opener against Lehigh on Sept. 20, but the squad is equally active off the field, recently adding six-year-old Dante Chiappetta to the team.
On the evening of Sept. 11, the Yale football team held a draft day, selecting Dante Chiappetta to become a member of the Yale football team. He was greeted by members of the team and put on a white Yale football jersey with No. 39.
The football team worked with Team IMPACT, a nonprofit based in Boston, Mass. that pairs kids with college athletic teams in an effort to improve the quality of life for children between the ages of five and 15 and have some sort of chronic or life-threatening disease, according to the organization’s website.
Tight end Jackson Stallings ’17 and defensive end Marty Moesta ’17 organized the team’s efforts with the Chiappetta family and Team IMPACT.
“It has been and continues to be an incredible experience,” Stallings said. “Team IMPACT does a great job in helping our relationship with the Chiappettas, but I can honestly say that our Yale football family has grown because of Team IMPACT and the Chiappettas.”
Dante Chiappetta, a student at Clintonville Elementary School, has cortical visual impairment and cerebral palsy. CVI, also known as cortical blindness, occurs when the brain is not able to interpret images from the eyes correctly, leading to a form of visual impairment. Although he was able to gain sight at the age of one, Dante still copes with vision sensitivity. He continues to attend speech, occupational and physical therapy daily. Dante’s father, Joe Chiappetta, said at the draft day event that if Dante had not gained any vision by the age of one, doctors told the family that he might have been permanently blind.
“Watching Dante get excited and telling him that we’re going out to the Yale Bowl and we’re coming to see Jackson [Stallings] or some of the other players, he tries to race us down the stairs to get to the car,” Joe Chiappetta said. “He wants to be the first one to the car.”
Dante is far from the only beneficiary in this situation, however. Every player interviewed agreed that Dante’s presence has positively impacted both them and the team.
Captain Deon Randall ’15 added that Dante is both a teammate and a source of inspiration for the team.
“Dante brings an energy and spirit of positivity that cannot be provided by anyone else,” Stallings said. “He is a source of inspiration for us daily and is truly a valuable member of our Yale football family.”
Yale is not the only Ancient Eight school to be involved with Team IMPACT recently. Last year, six-year old Nyla was a part of the Princeton women’s hockey team, while the Tigers baseball team adopted five-year-old Ray Fantel. And lest you think that Yale’s archrivals are stingy, the Harvard women’s swimming and diving team adopted five-year-old Sophie in the 2012–2013 season.
Team IMPACT has worked with 501 kids and 251 schools across 36 states.