South Carolina and Michigan may be squaring off on the football field next week, but the players from both schools teamed up Thursday afternoon at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.
Nine Gamecocks and 10 Wolverines walked the halls of the hospital and made the day of sick kids by handing out autographed Outback Bowl posters and pennants and bringing boisterous good cheer to every room they visited.
The Michigan players also gave away mini-footballs with their team’s logo, while the USC players passed out draw-string backpacks featuring their school’s logo.
“You got the bag before I got the bag,” USC cornerback Vic Hampton excitedly told one youngster.
The USC players – Hampton, Dylan Thompson, Kelcy Quarles, Ace Sanders, Walker Inabinet, Kadetrix Marcus, J.T. Surratt, Brock Stadnik and Clayton Stadnik – were all volunteers for the visit.
“It’s great we have guys on our team who have this kind of heart to spend time with kids who are struggling and boost them up. It’s a sign of how committed we are as a team to doing the right thing,” Thompson said. “I’d rather do this every day, to be honest with you. I love seeing kids and brightening their day. They’re going through a lot more serious stuff than we are right now.”
The hospital staff split them into two groups to patrol different halls, intermingling the USC and Michigan players as they went door-to-door.
Sanders and fellow Florida native, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, spoke of their mutual admiration for each other as they made their visits. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner kept his group in stitches with his outgoing personality.
Along the way, they made a lot of new friends. As they entered the room of one teenage girl, hospital employee Karen Minningham stated, “I told you that I was going to bring a bunch of handsome men in.”
Quarles, USC’s sophomore defensive lineman, called it an honor to make the rounds.
“I’ve seen how a lot of people helped me throughout my life and everything I’ve been through. I know we’re fortunate to be in the situation we’re in playing football, so it’s just nice to go back into the community and do anything you can to make an impact on a child’s life,” Quarles said. “Wherever I can go to serve and help other people just by putting a smile on somebody’s face, that’s what I’m going to do. It’s great to represent South Carolina. I know this game is about football, but this is a special moment for me.”
Appreciative children and their parents – some even wearing the colorful gear of schools from Florida to Alabama – got a big charge out of the lively good will being spread. But the players got their own charge out of spreading it.
“Just getting the opportunity to share with them and spend time with them and encourage them and their families is huge,” Thompson said. “It’s an opportunity to shine a light.”