17-year-old Milford Native Welcomed to Bulldogs
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Jakob Smith, a brave 17-year-old from Milford, Conn., who has been battling numerous, significant medical challenges his entire life, has joined the Yale Men's Hockey Team through Team IMPACT.
Jakob and his family were at Ingalls Rink last night to make it official during a press conference that was covered by both WTNH TV and Vantage Sports TV. The entire 2017-18 Yale roster was present as Smith signed on as a member of the team.
The event began with a video explaining what he has been through and the major challenges he has overcome. After watching the eye-opening display on the huge screen of the Yale Player Lounge, Ryan Hitchcock '18 made the most appropriate comment. "Obviously you can see that Jakob will be more of an inspiration to all of us than we could ever be to him."
He will soon have an official, No. 23 Yale Hockey jersey, which will be seen at practices, games and other team events. Jakob, a big fan of the Bulldogs, mingled with the players after the press conference to talk about video games and other free-time activities while discussing what it will be like to be part of the team next season.
Jakob was diagnosed in 2011 with a gastrointestinal disorder known as Esinophillic Esophagitis (EOE). Team IMPACT is a national nonprofit headquartered in Boston that connects children facing serious or chronic illnesses with college athletic teams, forming life-long bonds and life-changing outcomes.
"Jakob truly is an inspiration to so many people in the way that he fights and gets back up every day. He is a medically complex warrior," said his mother, Christy Hultberg, who sat with Jakob, Hitchcock and Jakob's sister, Lucy Smith, at the press conference table.
Since 2011, Team IMPACT has matched more than 1,400 children with more than 500 colleges and universities in 47 states, reaching over 50,000 participating student-athletes. The child joins the athletic team and the student-athletes join the child's support team. Throughout the journey, the child gains strength, camaraderie and support while the student-athletes experience lessons of courage, resiliency and perspective they can't learn in a classroom.
"He is going to make a positive impact on our team next year," said goalie Sam Tucker '19. "He can help us stay grounded, especially when things get stressful. Everyone on the team can take something from his presence."
There will be a GoFundMe account set up soon to help Jakob's family take care of medical expenses.