By Molly Block, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 15, 2013
Being here and having the opportunity to brighten someone’s day is huge, but they don’t realize they’re brightening our day too.”
More like this
- Olympian Vanderkaay receives Mott Champions for Children Award
- Amaizeing Philanthropy: Michigan athletes take time out of their busy school and practice schedules to spend Thursday evenings
- Magazine lists Mott in top 10 U.S. children's hospitals
- Former athletes turn out to support Mott Children's Hospital
Soccer player Tyler Leppek, a LSA junior, said the Thursday night visits offer a much-needed distraction for the patients.
“I feel like it takes their mind off what’s going on in the hospital and gives them a new face to see,” Leppek said. “Taking pictures with them makes (the patients) the center of attention in a positive light.”
Swimmer Roman Willets, an education senior, said the volunteering experience impacts both the patients and athletes in a meaningful way.
“First and foremost it keeps things in perspective for us as athletes. Sometimes people get bogged down by a tough practice or balancing school and working out,” Willets said. “It gives us all a lot of energy for the week. This is a very motivating place to come and humbling as well.”
Eaton Rapids, Mich. resident Devin Gauna, an 18-year-old seeking treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, was visited by redshirt sophomore football players Jake Ryan and Joey Burzynski. He said the visit kept his spirits up.
“Today was good because I feel a lot better than I have been,” Gauna said. “The athletes made me laugh a little, a lot. I noticed them through the window a little bit, these big ole football players.”
Grand Blanc resident Jennifer Witten’s 3-year-old son Cohen is being treated at Mott for pineoblastoma, a type of brain tumor. Witten said she enjoyed the fresh faces that brought a smile to her son’s face.
“It really brightens our day; it’s a lot of fun. It gives him somebody else to talk to and see besides his mom and dad all day long,” Witten said. “I think it’s awesome that they come, period. They don’t have to do that. They’re not obligated to do that.”
On top of the Thursday night athlete visits, Michigan From the Heart hosts a charity golf outing in the spring and special trips to different University sporting events.
“Thursday night visits are a key component to Michigan From the Heart, but we take families to athletic events all year long,” Schuster, one of the volunteers, said. “We try to aid the family in any way that we can. This is all done in conjunction with the athletic department. They give us a lot of help and support in getting the athletes trained.”
Fischer said the organization also represents a connection of two major University affiliates — the Athletic Department and the University of Michigan Health System.
“It’s really a three prong relationship; there’s been a really nice relationship between Mott, the Athletic Departments and Michigan From the Heart,” Fischer said. “It’s ultimately a benefit for the patients and their families.”
Athletic department officials did not respond to several requests for comment for this article.
The relationship between the Athletic Department, Mott and Michigan From the Heart has been crucial to sustaining Thursday night athlete visits, but it has been the athletes’ dedication that livens the organization, Boullion said.
“The most important part of the program has been the volunteers through the years,” Boullion said. “You’ve got dedicated people.”
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify why From the Heart was founded.