Sept. 4, 2009
Caitlin Mangum, Texas Media Relations
Although The University of Texas football program is the host of countless traditions, one in particular stands out to many of the players as a way to give back to the Longhorns community. Each Friday before home football games, a group of players travels to the Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas to visit with patients and their families.
These players spend time signing autographs, taking pictures, and simply talking with the children. While some players hang out with a group of patients in the playroom, others travel room-to-room to pay a visit to those children who are too ill to leave their hospital beds. Regardless of the location, the kids are continually excited to meet with their favorite Longhorn players.
Ashley Davis, special events coordinator for Dell Children's Hospital, is immensely grateful to the players for volunteering their time.
"These visits mean so much to some of our families that it is difficult to put it into words," Davis said. "It creates priceless memories that they'll always have. The football team is such a role model for these kids, and I am so appreciative of the time they spend here. Their encouraging words every time we get together just mean the world to these families and are something that they hold on to even after the visit."
The families are not the only ones who are enriched by the experience. The visits are also poignant and touching to the players personally, a sentiment senior C Chris Hall, a regular at Dell Children's Hospital, expressed.
"I would say that you can talk to any of these guys and they would say the same thing - it is so enjoyable to be able to give back," Hall said. "To be honest, we receive so much when we get to come and do something like this. It is really enjoyable for us."
Senior WR Jordan Shipley is another regular visitor, in fact one who has been coming for almost all of his six years he has been on UT's campus.
"There are so many kids here who light up just to see us," Shipley said. "You go back in some of the individual rooms and there are some kids who are having a pretty hard time, but they're all being so brave with it. We're the ones who end up learning from them."
Junior DE Sam Acho, who has been unable to attend in the past because of class conflicts, was excited about the opportunity to visit the Children's Hospital for the first time and be part of the longstanding tradition. Acho, like Hall, is moved by the positive impact he and his teammates can have on the lives of sick children within the community.
"I think it encourages the patients to see that people care," Acho said. "Obviously the parents care about their kids, but it is good for them to see they're not the only ones who care. We love to come and help out and do what we can. It's the least we can do."
The tradition gives the team a chance to make a difference off the field in the lives of those kids who are struggling. When asked about what this tradition means, both for the players and the children, Acho summed it up brilliantly.
"It definitely shows how Texas is about family," Acho said. "From the bottom-up, we are all about family. This is our extended family out here - the kids, the parents. It just brings us back to that family atmosphere that Texas is all about."