Dec 7, 2012, 12:37 PM EDT
Last night, the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) held their 16th Annual Pediatric Christmas Party. SAAC invites the pediatric hematology and oncology wards from Memorial Hospital every year, and this year added St. Joseph Regional Medical Center to the list.
Tammy Robison, the parent advocate for Memorial Hospital, said, “It’s phenomenal! It’s so great for our kids to come out, just because everyone looks up to a Notre Dame athlete, and they get to meet them, get autographs, play musical chairs, and [decorate] cookies with them. I mean it’s huge—huge!” Robison said that about 65 families from Memorial Hospital attended this year.
Harper Cancer Research Institute sponsors the event at which athletes from every sport work a table for kids to decorate sweets, get their faces painted, or make arts-and-crafts. They also have the opportunity to play musical chairs, do some hula-hooping, and take their photos with Santa.
Kimmie Lisiak, a senior on the women’s diving squad, said, “This is my favorite event during Christmastime here on campus….We always have a lot of fun with musical chairs, and then Santa comes to visit and gives each kid a present, which is really fun, and then we’ll do a big group picture near the end….It makes their year, I think.”
Danny Spond, a junior on the football team, has come to the Christmas Party twice now, and said, “[The kids] approach us and you can just see how shy they are and how excited they are to be around us, so when you can sign a helmet or sign a piece of paper, it’s just that smile—it’s unbelievable.”
Mark and Tracy Harrison have been bringing their daughter Hannah to the event for “13 or 14 years.” They said that Hannah, whose favorite activity is the arts-and-crafts, really looks forward to the party every year. “She was so excited tonight! She was just bouncing all around.”
Senior basketball player Skylar Diggins has been coming to the Christmas Party since she was a freshman. “It’s been getting bigger and bigger with the amount of kids that come out, and it’s just special to share this time, you know, with the holidays coming up. Some of these kids have been through so much with illness, injury, what-have-you, and I think it’s just a great thing for us to connect with the community, and that’s what Notre Dame is all about.”
The event really lifts the children’s spirits, but it’s also beneficial to the student-athletes. “This is a good reality check. Getting a little overwhelmed with classes and finals, you come here and just relax—it’s the best part of the day,” Spond remarked.
It may just be one night a year, but the SAAC Pediatric Christmas Party is a night that the attendees remember year-round. It’s a night where these children can feel extra special. It’s one night when nothing but the Christmas spirit is on everyone’s hearts. It’s one night when roles reverse–instead of the kids looking up to the athletes, the athletes look up to the kids. It may just be one night, but it makes a big difference.
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