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MCGILL: Hospital Visits Brighten Days for Children and Football Team

Marshall University football players visit the Hoops Family Children's Hospital.
Oct. 26, 2016

By Chuck McGill

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – There was a blonde little girl tucked under the covers of a bed in the first room the Marshall University football players visited. Before they entered, the clinical coordinator for the pediatric unit at the Hoops Family Children’s Hospital knocked on the door and asked the girl if the players could enter the room.

The girl didn’t say a word, but flashed a toothy smile that served as her approval.

“She was just grinning,” said Larri Terrell, the clinical coordinator at the 72-bed facility on the fifth floor of Cabell Huntington Hospital. “The kids just love it."

Eight Marshall football players visited on this rainy Friday morning: Terrence Ricks, Keion Davis, Chase Hancock, Ryan Yurachek, Gator Green, Joe Massaquoi, Josh Knight and Justin Hunt. A group of Thundering Herd players make the trip to the children’s hospital on Friday mornings before home games. It is usually a different combination of players, but the reaction of the kids and the effect on the student-athletes is the same.

“It kind of humbles you every time you go,” said Yurachek, a junior tight end. “I’ve probably been 10 or 15 times now and it’s a humbling experience; a difference experience.”

The players who visit bring different gifts each time. Sometimes they hand out tickets to upcoming football games for when the children are able to leave the hospital or for parents and family who need a few hours of respite from their worries and concerns. Other times, like last Friday, the players will distribute DVDs for entertainment and sign posters for keepsakes.

Terrell said the children will hang the posters on their room and not take them down for the rest of their hospital stay.

“Every kid smiles from it,” Terrell said. “It just tickles them to death. Sometimes it’s the first time those kids have smiled in weeks.

“The kids talk about it forever, too. There is one boy in there who will talk about that all day long when he won’t talk to anybody about anything else.”

Terrell knocked on one child’s door to seek permission for the players to enter.

“Do you want to see the Marshall team?” she asked the child.

“On TV?” he responded as he played a video game from his bed.

Then the players entered the room and surrounded the bed.

“There are only one or two times you see repeat people in there, so you get to meet new people and brighten their day,” Yurachek said. “They brighten your day, too.

“It’s overwhelming. Overwhelmed is a good word for it. Some of them are real shy and kind of won’t say anything and some are real talkative. They kind of don’t know what to say.”

The visits lift the spirits of the entire floor. The children’s hospital features 36 beds in a neonatal intensive care unit, 26 beds in a general pediatrics unit and a 10-bed pediatric intensive care unit.

“It kind of wakes the kids up,” Terrell said of Marshall’s visits. “It’s a change of pace and something they weren’t expecting. They wake up and they are happy all day long.”

Terrell recalls the players bringing miniature footballs and tossing them back and forth with the kids. They’ll ask the children about their ailments, sit by their beds and chat and offer prayers and support as they leave each room.

“The guys are absolutely fabulous,” Terrell said. “They interact with the kids, they sit down on their level and they talk with them.

“The football players are just absolutely wonderful.”