Feb. 5, 2008
By Ed Erickson
It's 6pm on a rainy Monday night in Seattle. As many students chow down on dormitory food or file into the Conibear Crew House for some evening studying, a group from the men's basketball team wait for authorization in the lobby of Children's Hospital before they are allowed to enter.
They are not there to do research for a project or because the athletic department forced them to perform community service. They are at Children's because they know that sometimes, the best medicine for a child with terminal cancer is a chuckle, a smile and a hug from a Husky.
Lead by Head Coach Lorenzo Romar, the men's basketball players and coaches spent an evening visiting Children's Hospital, painting T-shirts with the patients, and then helped them create jack-o-lanterns. As you could imagine, many pumpkins displayed Husky logos as the Husky spent nearly 90 minutes visiting more than 40 children. They talked with the children about everything from sports to video games. Cheerfully, one patient shows the players a picture he drew of his mountain of stuffed animals. Clearly, the hour and a half belonged to the children.
"I've visited children's hospital before and found it very fulfilling, so I was hoping this trip would be the same. When you see children with health problems, it makes you realize how blessed you are," said Jon Brockman making his eighth trip to Children's during his time wearing the purple and gold. "It really wakes you up and lets you know how easy you have it. These kids are stuck in the hospital and you have the freedom to do as you wish."
It would be easy for student-athletes at Division 1A (newly renamed to BCS Division) schools to get caught up in college life and the daily requirements of their sport, but it seemed that the student-athletes got as much out of this evening as the children they are visiting.
"Being able to see the look on their faces made it worth going. You see these kids that have life threatening issues - yet their eyes lit up and their smiles grew big when we arrived." Freshman Matthew Bryan-Amaning said during his first visit to Children's. "It was very humbling and makes you realize how fortunate you really are."
As 8 p.m. rolls around, the players say their goodbyes and leave the room. One of the players does the unexpected and peaks his head back into the room one last time. The once awestruck child again smiles ear-to-ear as he, although momentarily, has forgotten about the life-threatening illness that has brought him to Children's.
As the basketball team makes their way back through the lobby and out the automatic sliding doors toward the parking lot, it is apparent that this evening will leave lasting memories on all those who attended.
Ranked as one of the best children's hospitals in the country by U.S. News and World Report and Child magazines, Children's serves as the pediatric referral center for Washington, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho. Children's Hospital's was founded in 1907 and since has provided excellent patient care with compassion and respect, and conducts cutting edge pediatric research. They also serve as a respected educational resource for parents and healthcare professionals alike.
Many of the visits to Children's by UW student-athletes are organized by Kristie Forrest, member of the Tyee Board of Advisors.
"These visits are important to show the community that the University of Washington student-athletes are concerned about more than just athletics and school," Forrest said. "It is amazing to watch the interaction between the student-athletes and the kids, which makes me proud to be a part of such a rewarding yet important project to the surrounding community".
Washington student-athletes, coaches and athletic department staff volunteer 1000's of hours of community services each year, assisting organizations like the Union Gospel Mission, local Middle Schools, Northwest Harvest and many other local charities.
"It's a win-win and there's no doubt in my mind," said Brockman. "If there was a ranking for community services, UW would be ranked #1 nationally."
A ranking that must put a smile on all Husky Fans.
This article appeared in the Dawg's Digest, exclusively for Husky Tyee members. For more information about receiving the Dawgs Digest, contact Ed Erickson at: firstname.lastname@example.org.