SE: Football Visits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – K-State football put the game aside yesterday morning. The team put up its helmets, took off shoulder pads and spent the morning at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital here in Memphis visiting with its patients. 
The Liberty Bowl and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, an internationally recognized biomedical research center dedicated to finding cures for catastrophic diseases in children, have a longstanding partnership. Along with having each of the bowl’s teams spend time visiting the hospital, the patients also have the opportunity to go to this weekend’s game and participate in the coin toss and in the halftime show.
“There is a lot of patient interaction and participation with the Liberty Bowl,” Rick Shadyac, President and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising organization of St. Jude, said during K-State’s visit. “It’s a great distraction for them during a hard time. A lot of the families go home over the holidays, but for the ones that have to stay here, they’re able to get outside of the hospital and get that sense of normalcy again. They look forward to the football game, seeing all these guys and getting an autographed football; that’s what it’s all about. It’s a beautiful thing.”

One of the most anticipated events of the partnership is the teams’ visit to the hospital.
Upon arrival at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital yesterday morning, K-State football players were given an opportunity to tour the facility. The group of 20 Wildcats, led by K-State head coach Bill Snyder, walked the hallways, learned the history of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and rubbed the nose of founder Danny Thomas’ statue, a sign of good luck. 
The players were then given the opportunity to interact with the children. They signed posters and footballs. They introduced themselves, talked football and gave plenty of high-fives.
“I’m a firm believer that the Kansas State community is a family,” said senior wide receiver Stanton Weber, “and whatever we can do for these families that come in here, whatever we can do to make their day a little better, we want to do it because what these kids are going through is so much tougher than our grind on the football field.” 

Added senior offensive lineman Boston Stiverson, “Our trip to St. Jude was really special. It puts it into perspective of how good you really have it when you see them just fighting for their lives. It really puts it in perspective how blessed we are.”
For junior linebacker Charmeachealle Moore, the visit was personal. 
“It was a blessing. It was rough walking in, seeing all the pictures and everything. It brought back memories of what I went through last year,” said Moore who is all too familiar with hospital stays after spending time undergoing serious surgery last summer. “I was 21 when I was in the hospital, but these kids, some of them are only four or five years old. It was sad, I had to hold back from crying a few times.”
The visit left a few football players teary-eyed while it also gave this weekend’s game a little more meaning to each of them. 
“It means the world to us that the guys would take the time out of their very, very busy schedule this week to visit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” added Shadyac. “Some of the kids here are some of the sickest kids in the United States and in the world, so for them to be able to see these guys here, it’s a chance for them to be a normal kid again. The kids love seeing these football players, a lot of them want to grow up and be just like them.”

St. Jude Hospital was opened in 1962 by founder Danny Thomas, and, back then, only 5 percent of its patients survived. Today, because of the dedicated work of St. Jude’s doctors and scientists and the generosity of St. Jude’s supporters, more than 90 percent live. From treatment to travel to housing to food, families never receive a bill from St. Jude. 
“All we want our families to worry about when they come to St. Jude is getting their child better,” added Shadyac. 
Yesterday afternoon’s visit to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was a complete volunteer opportunity for the Wildcats. While the cap for the trip was only 20 players,Weber and Moore said nearly every one of their teammates volunteered and wanted to go. 
“We have a team full of great guys,” Moore said with a smile. “We love everybody. We teach about family, and everybody is a part of that family. Everybody wanted to come out today and show their support, and that’s just amazing. We’re all brothers here at K-State, you wouldn’t make it here if you didn’t have that family mentality.”
Following their visit to the hospital, the Wildcats were back in action. They boarded a bus and were on their way to practice to continue preparation for the 2016 AutoZone Liberty Bowl this weekend. 
“I’m just embracing everything that comes with bowl week,” closed Moore. “This was a big part of it for us, and it’s something that we can embrace and cherish for the rest of our lives.” 
The 2016 AutoZone Liberty Bowl between K-State (6-6, 3-6 Big 12) and Arkansas (7-5, 5-3 SEC) kicks off on Saturday, at 2:20 p.m., in Memphis’ Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. It will be aired nationally on ESPN. 
For more information on this weekend’s Liberty Bowl, you can visit K-State Athletics’ Bowl HQ webpage by clicking here. 

All photos by Scott D. Weaver

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