By Garrett McCormick
This time of year is known as a season of giving, and Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Participants, the Brigham Young University Cougars and University of Tulsa Hurricane, made sure to give back in a big way with a visit to Cook’s Children’s Hospital Wednesday afternoon.
The hospital visit consisted of several players from both Tulsa and BYU as well as the BYU cheer squad and mascot, Cosmo the Cougar. The group interacted with children currently staying in the hospital as a means of raising their spirits during the holiday season.
“I think this is one of the benefits of sponsoring the bowl and what the bowl does. It tries to go out and reach the community. And as you can see with these young people interacting with these young children that are sick; as soon as you see a smile or a giggle or a laugh from these young kids that are sick it just makes the day,” said Bell Helicopter CEO John Garrison Jr.
Both teams spent time talking to the children and their families, dispensing gift and gear emblazoned with their respective team names not only to the patients, but to their siblings as well. Players also took pictures and signed autographs.
“I think it’s really cool the bowl game is getting involved in things like this and really letting us get involved in things around the bowl site,” said Tulsa sophomore defensive back James Roberson, who made a deal with one of the children to change his favorite color to pink in return for changing her favorite number to four, the same number on his jersey.
The cheerleaders even demonstrated their athletic ability through the occasional flip or stunt. Cosmo the Cougar even participated in one instance with an extremely skillful back flip.
“I think it’s more of a blessing for us,” said BYU Cheer Squad member Stevi Poulsen. “Seeing the smiles on these kids faces changes your life. Just knowing that a simple visit can make somebody’s day is a great experience and I’m just glad that we’ve been able to come and do this.”
KC Cook, a BYU Cheer Squad member, even spoke to one child in Spanish, ensuring all children could participate and converse with the teams despite potential language barriers.
“We’re supposed to cheer at the bowl game,” said Cook. “But there is so much more to life than just football, or just cheerleading, or just winning; and to be able to do little service projects like this and come out and spend time with the kids, get outside of ourselves, put ourselves aside for a little bit, focus on other people and making them feel better and making them happier makes us happier in return.”
A small group of players later went upstairs to visit children in their rooms who were unable to come down and meet with them.
“It’s been an awesome bowl experience thus far,” said BYU sophomore tight end Austin Holt. “Meeting with these little kids and trying to make their day and trying to help them a little bit is really the real purpose why our university, Brigham Young University, is here. Coach Mendenhall, our head coach, always stresses about the importance about giving back to the community and doing service.”
Both teams will meet on the field Friday at 11 a.m. at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas for the kick off of the ninth annual Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.