A group of kids from the OU Children's Hospital recently spent a day with the OU football team.
NORMAN, Okla. --
The OU football team recently welcomed a group of Special Spectators for a day full of smiles and laughter, cheers and hugs, and lots of happy memories. Patients at the OU Children's Hospital, on this day they were just Sooners.
"It means the world," said Marcel Austin, father of Special Spectator Jaden. "We are extreme OU fans. We just came back from Florida, and this is way better than Disney World for us."
"It's tremendous to see their faces and their excitement," said Blake Kuenzi, OU Assistant Director of Athletics Equipment. "To know that this is a special day for them and it gets their mind off what they're going through is a tremendous honor for me."
"They look forward to it for months," said Kay Tangner, the coordinator for Special Spectators. "The football team, Coach Stoops and the other coaches are so nice to include them and make them feel special. It's happy memories to share with their families."
The Special Spectators had a busy day, starting with a stop in Coach Stoops' office, sitting in his desk, trying on his rings, and even giving Coach himself a pre-game pep talk.
"So many of them I've been able to build a relationship with from seeing them time to time at the Children's Hospital," Stoops said. "It's just good to see them have fun, get their mind off some of their worries and struggles, enjoy the day and smile a little more."
From there it was on to the Switzer Center, where they mastered the Heisman pose. Then, a trip to OU's locker room, meeting a few Sooners, putting on Landry Jones' pads, sitting in Kenny Stills' locker, and giving another pre-game pep talk.
After the Special Spectators greeted the team, it was almost game time and on to the sidelines where they watched the Sooners during warmups. During the game they were recognized on the video board, prompting cheers throughout Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. After the game, it was time to celebrate with the team back inside the Sooners' locker room.
It was a day full of joy -- a different kind of medicine they won't receive at the hospital.
"Doctors and nurses will tell you this is as good as medicine for them," Tangner said. "It just encourages them and gives them a boost that they can't get at the hospital. It's why they call it Special Spectators -- it's just from the heart and it's special."
For these kids, it was a day to forget about chemo and treatments. It was simply a day to get to be a kid, spending a little time with their favorite football team.
About Special Spectators
Special Spectators is a nonprofit organization that creates magical days for seriously ill children and their families at sporting events across the United States. The organization also helps organize visits by coaches and student-athletes to nearby children's hospitals. To learn more about Special Spectators visit the official site at SpecialSpectators.org