By Mark Zimmaro
PHILADELPHIA--Dana Bell’s first official lunch break will be one she never forgets. The recently graduated Archbishop Ryan softball player had taken a job at McDonald’s in December to work alongside her cousins. On her first day of work, she received life-altering news: She had been accepted into one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world.
“My (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) decision letter came that day,” said Bell, a Bensalem resident. “My parents drove up to see me during my break. So, at 3:14 p.m., in a McDonald’s parking lot, I found out I was going to MIT.”
Bell had achieved the first step of her dream of studying aerospace engineering at MIT. But being a team-first athlete with instilled qualities that made her one of the best and most respected softball players in the area, Bell knew she still had a shift to finish. Back to work she went. The big cheese was still selling Big Macs.
“It was an exciting, special, different kind of moment,” she said. “Then I came back in (to work) and started taking orders.”
Bell was one of about 1,500 students chosen from about 15,000 of the country’s smartest applicants who applied to MIT.
Dana Bell is all smiles after hearing she had been accepted to MIT while on her work lunch break at McDonald's.(photo/courtesy Bell family)
“It was a really scary moment opening up that letter,” Bell said. “And once I saw the work ‘accepted’ my heart skipped a beat.”
Bell’s dedication and work ethic will never be questioned whether she will be working for Boeing or NASA some day or fielding dirty ground balls on the softball diamond while earning her degree. Both are important. Both are passions — along with all the other activities she partakes in. Most notably, Bell’s volunteer work with Athletes Helping Athletes was a mission she speaks of with beaming pride.
“One of our coaches’ sons has downs syndrome so we got to work with him,” Bell said. “He’s awesome. He’s super funny and really into sports so it’s fun to see him there.”
She also has a close friend with down syndrome who is involved with Athletes Helping Athletes. The organization holds a prom each year and the two were set to go together last spring before it was cancelled due to COVID-19.
“He’s always texting me and wishing me luck at my games,” Bell said. “I love just hanging out with everyone and seeing how into sports everyone is and trying to get them involved with everything. It’s just awesome to see. They are a great community.”
She plans to continue her work with special needs in Massachusetts next year.
“Up at MIT, they have a program called the Little Beavers Program where people from the Boston area will go on runs and social events and just hang out with people with special needs,” Bell said. “So, I’m definitely getting involved in that.”
They better be ready. When Bell puts her mind to something, there is usually nothing that can stop her. She was part of her school’s dominant Mathletes team that won the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Math Championships for the 23rd time in the last 26 years in April.
In softball, the Ragdolls ran undefeated through the Catholic League and won their fifth PCL championship since 2014. Ryan won it all in 2018 which was Bell’s freshman year, and she bookended her career with another title. There was no championship awarded last year due to the pandemic.
“It’s a great way to go out,” Bell said. “Obviously, we were hoping to go a little bit further in States, but our goal was to win the PCL and that’s what we did.”
Bell usually batted third in a lineup that was stacked one-through-five with seniors, which included Reilly Mehaffey, Dana Moser, Lauren Hagy and Deana Moser. It was a nearly unbeatable combination.
“Dana and all of our seniors were great this year,” said coach John Kidwell. “They all led by example. Our first five batters were seniors and most games, most days they led the charge and we had a great year because of how they played.”
On the field, Bell was the drill sergeant of the infield, playing shortstop, a position she learned to play when a vacancy became available this year. As a result, she was named Most Valuable Player of the Catholic League.
Bell had previously excelled at third base and pitched. No matter where the coaches were going to play her, Bell was going to find a way to help the team.
“She’s a smart kid,” Kidwell said. “She really knows the game of softball and at this point she could give suggestions and help all the other batters out by recognizing what the other pitcher is throwing so it’s almost like having another coach out there.”
Bell raises PCL plaque after winning the Championship Title on May 27th.(Photo/Mark Zimmaro for PSD)
Bell will likely return to third base next year when she joins MIT’s softball team. And perhaps one day while she is taking a short lunch break from working on airplanes and missiles, she will remember how special her senior year of softball truly was.
“One day after another was just a gift and I was just so happy to be able to play my senior year,” Bell said. “I knew I’d get a little emotional after it was gone, but I wanted to go out with a bang and have a great year.”
Archbishop Ryan 2021 Philadelphia Catholic League Softball Champions. (Photo/Mark Zimmaro for PSD)