WEDDINGTON — On March 28, the eighth grade boys of the Weddington Middle Lacrosse team took a trip to Hemby Children’s Hospital to spread a little cheer.
Head coach T.J. White said the trip was an opportunity for the boys to give back to the community, but to also learn some valuable lessons.
“For our kids, this was an opportunity to see how fortunate they are and spread some joy, and show those kids there are people out there who care about them,” White said. “I think a lot of sport teams have a great opportunity to give back to the community, no matter what it is. These kids are fortunate to play lacrosse and the kids in the hospital, some are terminal, and who knows what they could accomplish if they weren’t sick.”
White said the eighth-graders collected mini lacrosse sticks and other gear to take the hospital, and during their visit they spent time talking to the kids about their favorite sports, teaching them about lacrosse, and just hung out with the kids.
“It felt really good,” said eighth-grader Zak Butz, about visiting with the patients.
“It was a fun experience,” Kyle Plante added.
James White said he enjoyed talking to the patients about sports, especially the ones who had never played lacrosse before.
When asked what they took away from the whole experience, James didn’t hesitate.
“It teaches you to value things a lot more,” he said. “Seeing the positive attitude of the kids, and their smiles, teaches you to value what you have.”
And that response is more than White and the team parents could’ve hoped for.
“For me, the big thing is just giving the kids an opportunity to give back to the community,” White said. “These kids are spoiled and need to know what life’s really about. I think it’s a good character builder for them.”
Parent Marnie Sagraves said the goal was to get the kids to appreciate things and get out of their comfort zones, and she thinks they met that goal.
“Our kids take for granted the fact they can run and play on the field because it’s the only life they’ve known,” Sagraves said.
She said a visit like this to a children’s hospital is often expected of professional athletes because of their celebrity status, “but rarely do you see school groups go visit the hospital.”
Sagraves said this experience was good both for the lacrosse team and for the patients.
“The hospital is always packed at Christmas because people want to give gifts, but come January, people tend to forget there are kids still there, some long term,” Sagraves said.
Sagraves said she hopes the enthusiasm from the eighth-graders was contagious enough for the seventh-graders to want to do it next year.
“I would like to see it not just be a one-time thing,” she said, noting that this year was a test to see how the boys and the patients would respond.
“The response was great from the patients and nursing staff, and the boys were a little hesitant at first, but I think they did great,” she said.
White said it was even a good experience for him as a parent.
“I enjoyed it thoroughly because you see these kids and can only imagine what they’ve gone through, and you’re there learning about their interests, seeing them smile … it definitely made me reflect on things a little bit and appreciate the health of my family as well.”