Some of the children — shy at first — were amazed at how tall the South Carolina basketball players were. That shyness did not last long as laughs and smiles appeared when the players began to dance.
The scene played out Friday as the USC men’s basketball team took part in the latest event of its annual 8K In 8 Days campaign at the Ronald McDonald House at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital in Columbia.
After the Gamecocks showed off some dance moves, children chose players to help them create necklaces and tie-dye T-shirts.
“It hurts to see the kids going through so much,” USC senior forward Maik Kotsar said. “At the same time, seeing them fight through it having a smile on their face gives us motivation, and I think it makes us feel really good.”
Team members spent time with children and their parents creating crafts, performing hula and limbo dances, making T-shirts and taking pictures.
The campaign is aimed at reaching 8,000 fans in eight days in the Columbia area with community outreach events during the summer. This marks the Gamecocks’ sixth year with the program.
“Not only do our families at the House get to come over and be a part of it, all of the children at the children’s hospital get to come down,” said Liz Atkinson, operations director of Ronald McDonald House Charities. “They get to get out of their room a little bit and see some of these awesome people that came out to spend the day with them.”
Community outreach events don’t just impact the public. They also help build team chemistry off the court.
“We come together as a team and do a lot as a team, not just on the court or in the weight room,” Kotsar said. “I think it helps a lot ... just coming here acting as a team and help everyone that we can.”
Kotsar is the only player on the current USC roster from the 2017 Final Four team and was the only senior for the upcoming season until the Gamecocks added transfer guard Micaiah Henry.
“It’s still kinda surreal that it’s my senior year, my last year, my last go-round,” Kotsar said. “I think we have a great group of guys, and we’ll do the best we can.”
The 2019 campaign started with an event at Sowing Seeds into the Midlands on Wednesday. The Gamecocks in the coming days are also set to visit the Dorn VA Medical Center, the YMCA, the City of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department, Habitat for Humanity, Transitions and Harvest Hope Food Bank.
Kotsar was looking forward to showing off his limbo dancing skills at Friday’s event.
“I think I’m going to win,” Kotsar said about the dancing competition. “Not a guarantee, but I would put my bets on myself.”