DALLAS — The college bowl season is a time for players to have a good time. After a regular season, the games are meant as a reward for all the time, blood, sweat and tears from the young men dedicated to entertaining millions of football fans around the country.
Most players look forward to the time away from school, the bowl gifts and hanging out with teammates in a new city. It’s like a mini vacation as they prepare for the final game of their season.
However, for one day, Cotton Bowl officials ask coaches and players to give back to those in need. Each year, the two participating teams in the Cotton Bowl Classic visit the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas and the Scottish Rite Hospital as a way of interacting with the community.
Oklahoma made its way to CMC on Wednesday, where Coach Bob Stoops and the entire Sooner squad interacted with patients, signed autographs, took photos, handed out memorabilia and tried to bring a smile to patients’ faces.
“It’s awesome for the Cotton Bowl to have us come out here and set something up like this,” OU quarterback Blake Bell said. “Being around the kids helps us get our minds off the game a little bit and also allows us to have some fun. It definitely puts things into perspective.”
Children’s Medical Center is the only academic health care system in Dallas-Fort Worth dedicated solely to the comprehensive care of children from birth to age 18. Its mission as a private, nonprofit pediatric hospital system is “to make life better for children.”
“Last year, we served 200,000 children,” Children’s Medical Center President and CEO Chris Durovich said, comparing the number of patients to three capacities of Cowboys Stadium. “The number of kids that we have provided care to in the past year could fill up that stadium once, empty it out, fill it up again and empty it out, and there would still be a line. We look forward to cheering you on in the game with the new friends you meet today.”
The medical center provides care ranging from neonatal critical care to sports medicine and from trauma to eating disorders. The system offers highly specialized, nationally recognized care for illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, blood disorders and cystic fibrosis.
The Sooners met several young kids battling life-threatening diseases and spent time with them.
“Children should be cared for and protected in every single way, and I can tell that is done here,” Stoops said. “We hopefully can distract the children for a little bit of time, taking them away from their worries and their pains.”
Earlier in the week, Texas A&M traveled to Texas Scottish Rite, where the Aggies made quick friends with the young patients. The hospital specializes in the treatment of pediatric orthopedic conditions
“Making the kids happy is what it is all about,” A&M senior Dustin Harris said. “Some people don’t get a chance to do many things in life, and these kids are a big blessing to our team because they are giving us back happiness. It brings out the inner-child in all of us.”
Oklahoma junior Austin Woods may have had a special interest in meeting the children.
Last spring, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He went through chemotherapy treatment over the summer as well as during the regular season. In October, his doctor told him he was in remission.
“One of the things I wanted to do after I was diagnosed,” Woods said, “because it really opened my eyes to the world of cancer, was to use my platform as an OU football player to help others, especially kids, who are going through the same thing.”