The William Smith soccer team joined “Courtney’s Crew,” drafting Courtney Wagner onto the Heron roster as a part of Team IMPACT.
by Cindy McVey
When the William Smith soccer team scored its winning goal to become national champions, among the most enthusiastic of the fans watching from the bleachers in San Antonio was Courtney Wagner, a 16-year old diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer. Having joined the team earlier this season as the Herons’ Team IMPACT teammate (Team IMPACT is a non-profit that works to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening illnesses), she accompanied them to Texas to take part in the whole experience – the win was just the icing on the cake.
“Words cannot even explain how shocked I was when the team called me and asked me to come to Texas with them,” says Wagner, who is a varsity soccer player for Canandaigua Academy. “It was an experience that I will never forget.”
For her part, Wagner provided a source of inspiration and strength to the team throughout the competition. In an address to the eight teams that competed in the semifinals, Olivia Zitoli ’14 thanked Wagner for her role, saying “Courtney has brought us so many smiles and showed us courage and strength that many of us have never seen before.”
“Our integrity as a group is that it’s not just about us as a team; it’s about HWS, the Geneva community, Courtney and her family, and just doing things for other people,” says Madeline Buckley ’15, who coordinates the team’s involvement with Team IMPACT.
Payson Sword, case manager from Team IMPACT, praised the team’s support. “It has been incredible to see this relationship grow. The National Championship couldn’t have come home with a better team!”
Gratitude was also extended from Courtney’s mother, Jamie Wagner. “I will be grateful forever for Courtney’s involvement with the team, for Maddy for being part of Team IMPACT and getting William Smith matched up with Courtney, for Aliceann who embraced the idea and welcomed Courtney to all team events with open arms, and for all of the girls and coaches who made Court one of the group.”
During the championship weekend in San Antonio, the Herons also enjoyed the opportunity to work with Special Olympics athletes. Together the Herons and the Special Olympians completed a service project at Lady Bird Johnson Park followed by soccer-related activities.
“It was amazing to give back to a community outside of our own. Just seeing the Special Olympics athletes smile made this experience one we’ll never forget,” says Zoe Jackson Gibson ’16.
Annually, the Herons are involved in every HWS Day of Service and the Penguin Plunge benefit for Embrace Your Sisters, an organization that gives emergency funding to families affected by breast cancer. This year, the team also took part in the Glow Run and, in the fall semester, often “raided” the residence halls to collect water bottles to raise money for Embrace Your Sisters. The Herons have donated money to the B+ Foundation, whose focus is helping kids fight cancer. Individually, a number of players volunteer with Happiness House, the Community Lunch Program, and more.