By: Caryn Maconi, CUBuffs.com
Pulling wagons chock-full of Buff horns and stuffed animals, the athletes set out with the goal of meeting young patients and spreading some CU pride.
The group visited patients room-to-room, answering questions, offering autographed posters and handing out gear from the wagons: headbands with horns for the older kids, and tiny stuffed Buffs for those too small to fit the headbands.
While the football team was the highest in attendance, athletes from various CU sports — including several volleyball players, track and cross-country runner Shalaya Kipp, and basketball player Josh Scott — joined in on the event.
Chip the Buffalo came along, too, high-fiving and taking photos with children at every stop.
And while all the young patients the Buffs visited seemed to enjoy the company, “D” was perhaps the most eager. Not more than five seconds after a hospital attendant creaked open his door, “D” was off his bed and tottering toward the hallway for his first glimpse of Chip and friends.
“When he got out of the bed and came over, he was really excited to see us,” Wood said. “He wanted to talk to us and take pictures, and he told us to come back. That was pretty cool.”
For several minutes, “D,” dressed in a baby pink hospital gown and ear-to-ear grin, learned how to fist-pound with Chip and modeled his new Buff horns for all to see.
The student-athletes then said goodbye to finish making their rounds to other rooms, but they promised to visit “D” again on their way out.
And they kept their word.
As the last stop of the day, the group knocked on “D”’s door for a final time. The little boy hadn’t forgotten, either — while he waited for his heroes’ return, he’d created a thank-you card, writing all the words himself in his best-effort kindergarten script.
“It was a real eye-opening experience,” said senior defensive lineman Chidera Uzo-Diribe. “Just being around the kids, seeing how happy they were to meet Chip. It just looked like we brightened up their day, and in fact they were brightening up ours.”
Junior defensive lineman Juda Parker was the first at the door of nearly every patient’s room Sunday.
“I had an awesome time,” Parker said. “Just the whole experience of it all. Meeting people, someone who doesn’t have as much as I do or is not as fortunate as me. It’s great to give back, and really it’s a heartfelt moment.”
For Parker, the experience was a personal one as well. When Parker’s cousin was seven or eight, she was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent chemotherapy treatments on her way to recovery.
“She didn’t have hair or anything, so I know that experience,” Parker said. “I know how it is to give back and make a little kid’s day a little brighter.”
The visit is just one of several volunteer events Colorado football head coach Mike MacIntyre has arranged for his players this spring in an effort to become more involved in the community. For smaller events, he sends his athletes in nine pre-arranged “family groups” of 10-12 players led by a position coach. He has set a goal for each family group to volunteer at least once this season.
Defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat leads one of the family groups that attended Sunday’s hospital visit.
“I think the kids got into it, and they enjoyed it. It was a good experience for them,” Jeffcoat said. “I wanted there to be an emphasis on [community service] this season … I wanted them to understand that you have to give something back.”
Last week, several Buffs volunteered in their family groups to cheer on runners at the Frank Shorter 5k Run/Walk.
Next Friday, the team will volunteer in its largest community-service event of the season, an on-campus bone marrow drive called “Be the Match.” The event is set for 12-6 p.m. at the Balch Fieldhouse; athletes will encourage CU students to donate marrow in the hope of finding matches for patients in need of transplants. For more information on the Be the Match Program, visit http://marrow.org/Home.aspx .