8B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - January 30, 2006
By David Murray I Daily Sports Writer
Michigan athletes take time out of their busy
school and practice schedules to spend
Thursday evenings at Mott Children's Hospital.
t's 6:34Op.m. on a gloomy Thursday night. As many students
chow down on dormitory food or file into the UGLi for
some evening studying, a group of anxious Michigan ath-
letes wait in the mundane lobby of C.S. Mott Children's
They're not there to do research for a project or because
the athletic department forced them to perform communi-
ty service. They're at the hospital because they know that
sometimes, the best medicine for a child with terminal can-
cer is a chuckle, a smile and a hug from a Wolverine.
One by one, the athletes are called to the hospital's numer-
ous floors, where children with life-threatening illnesses
count down the minutes until their heroes in maize and blue will walk
through their door. Although the athletes will only stay for an hour and
a half, they will make a lifetime of difference.
When the athlete approaches the child's room, he knocks on the door
and waits for a response. The waiting child, who expects to see a nurse
walking in with a syringe full of pain killer, is told that a student athlete
from the University of Michigan is there to visit, and fear turns imme-
diately to joy - a miracle in itself. With a baseball hat in hand, filled
from brim to plastic strap with the signatures of Wolverine athletes, the
athlete walks up to the child's bed. At this moment the child forgets
about the IV attached to his wrist and the monotonous beeping of the
machines hooked up to his body.
They talk about everything from sports to video games. They play
cards and board games. Cheerfully, the child shows the athlete a picture
he drew or his mountain of stuffed animal friends. The hour and a half
belongs to the child.
As 8 p.m. rolls around, the athlete says his last goodbyes and leaves
the room. The moment the athlete walks back through the door, he
peeks back to see the child one last time. The once-awestruck child
smiles ear-to-ear as he stares at the hat full of the signatures of the
people he idolizes. This reaction makes the visit worth more than the
compliment the athlete receives.
When the athlete strolls out into the hallway, the child's parents greet
him. Although he only talked about minute things like sports and video
games with their child, the parents proudly proclaim that he has made
their child's night.
As the athlete walks back through the lobby and out the automatic
sliding doors toward the parking lot, he knows that as he partakes in
life's small pleasures, the sick child won't. The child will sit in a hospital
bed all day, waiting for next Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. and that knock
on the door.
From the eart-
The program that makes it possible for sick children to meet the
Michigan student athletes that they adore is appropriately named
From the Heart. In 1991, Ed and Leann Boullion founded the
organization after their daughter Channon was diagnosed with cancer.
Channon, who has been in remission for several years, spent 15 months
at Mott Hospital. While Channon was in the hospital, her parents
noticed the psychological effect that visiting Michigan student athletes,
like Desmond Howard, had on the sick children. So, when nobody else
stepped up, they took the initiative to organize a more formal method
for the athletes to visit. From the Heart was born.
"The (basketball team) was the first one to say, 'Yes, we think this is
a great idea, and we'll have an athlete right away,' " Ed Boullion said.
"And that athlete they sent right away was Juwan Howard:"
In fact, the whole Fab Five was involved in the program during their
time at Michigan, along with other former Wolverine superstars like
quarterbacks Brian Griese and Tom Brady.
"These guys that were there years ago that I still talk to, their future is
to be involved in this program, because they know what it has done for
them," Ed Bouillon said. "It is something that you never forget. They'll
never forget playing (sports) at Michigan, nor will they ever forget being
a student athlete at the hospital and all the kids and their families that
they made smile."
What first began as high-status Michigan athletes visiting on Thurs-
day nights has now flourished into all the Michigan teams coming to
see the children. In addition, extraordinary volunteers like Dave and
Eight-year-old Tyler Bolla swings his pors during a visit by the athletes at
Shawn Pelak, who accompany sick children to numerous Michigan
sporting events, also contribute to the program.
But neither Ed nor Leann will take credit for all the smiles they've
inadvertently caused or all the pain they've helped to alleviate.
"It's not my program" Ed Bouillon said. "It's the student athletes'
program. I'm just a helper:'
T hey have big names on campus, but even bigger hearts.
C.S. Mott Children's Hospital overflows every Thursday night
with athletes sporting maize and blue warm-up suits. Members of
the women's rowing team to players on the baseball team, from the foot-
ball team to the women's soccer team, all crowd onto the hospital floors
They take the same classes their fellow students do and must also go
through demanding practices and training. But once a week, they leave
an hour and a half of time open to give to others.
"I have a goal to get here," said former offensive lineman Derek Bell.
"Especially, during the more hectic times during the year when you
have midterms, papers, finals and you're scrambling to move out of an
But even though the athletes come to hospital to inspire suffering
children, the relationship goes both ways. The athletes receive as much
pleasure walking through those hospital doors as the children do when
they see the athletes.
"Personally, I think I get more out of it than the kids do," punter
Ross Ryan said. "It makes you feel good and lucky about what you
have and really fortunate to be in the position that you are. A lot of
these kids are fighting for their lives. It's rewarding to come and see a
smile on their face."
The Thursday night visits have also proved to be addictive. Most
athletes attend their first visits as freshmen, on a recommendation
from another athlete. A few years later, they are the ones gloating
about how wonderful From the Heart is, in turn bringing new fresh-
men to the hospital.
This particular night, two Michigan baseball players are on oppo-
site ends of the spectrum. Fifth-year senior co-captain Drew Taylor, a
habitual attendee at the hospital, brought fellow pitcher, freshman Mike
Wilson, for his first visit.
"I love (visiting)," Taylor said. "I come back every week that I can and
we don't have practice or an exam or anything that gets in the way.... I just
wish we could do it more, but they only have it set up for once a week."
Wilson, who didn't know what to expect from his first trip, was
thrilled about his initial visit when he left the hospital.
"It was an experience I won't forget," Wilson said. "We met a lot
of athletes and a lot of people that were happy to see us. They all
had their Michigan stuff waiting for us to come. (There were) a lot
of smiles, especially considering the situations that they are in, just
nothing but smiles.
"There was this one kid who had a Chad Henne jersey on and was a
die hard (Michigan fan). When we gave him the hat, it just looked like
he thought it was Christmas morning. It means a lot when you can make
a kid feel that special."
Like most first-time visitors, Wilson knew immediately that it would
be the first of many opportunities for him to make Thursday night visits.
"I was just telling them that I can see us making the trip to come here
every week to see the kids," Wilson said.
Besides the handful of rookie visitors like Wilson, the crowd is filled
mostly with upperclassmen, like junior soccer player Brenna Mulhol-
land and junior swimmer Annie Stein, who have been participating in
From the Heart for three years. Despite their hectic schedules, they keep
making the effort to return to see the kids - because a bad day for them
nt nreticP will nlwnvs he hetter than a good day for a cancer-stricen
Fourth-graders Kianna Todd and Nia Dobbin show off their tattoos at Crisler Arena.
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