December 19, 2010
By Nikki Carnemolla
Sometimes it just takes a little change in perspective to remember what’s really important in life. With the holiday season upon us, we all can get swept up in the craziness of the season: what to buy for gifts, how to steal the closest spot in the mall parking lot.
On Friday, the players and the coaches of the Milwaukee Bucks took a few hours to visit with the patients at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, and were able to reflect on what’s really important: spending time with loved ones, the blessing of good health, spreading cheer to those in need.
The Bucks visit to the Children’s Hospital is an annual event that is highly anticipated by players and coaches, as well as the patients of CHW.
“This is a very special tradition around here,” said Debra Weiner, Director of Hematology-Oncology-Transplant at the Children’s Hospital. “All of the kids start asking around early December and we keep it a very big secret until the morning.”
Since the founding of the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (MACC) Fund on December 10, 1976, the Bucks have placed high importance on helping to advance the fight against childhood cancer. In its first year of existence, the MACC Fund raised $35,000 to put towards research. In total over the past 34 years, the MACC Fund, in partnership with the Bucks and other generous parties, has raised $39 million.
On Friday, the Bucks showed their support for the fight against childhood diseases in a non-monetary way. Through friendly interactions with approximately 50 children, they were able to positively impact the day and the holiday season for the patients at CHW.
“For a lot of the kids, it’s a distraction from the stress and the drudgery of being in the hospital,” said Weiner. “It makes them feel special that people think enough to come and spend some time with them.”
Eyes lit up as the players signed autographs. Smiles spread across the children’s faces as they posed for pictures. A father raised his daughter into his arms; she reached out and gave Bucks center Andrew Bogut a high-five, a sense of pride evident on her face. High-fiving a 7-foot basketball player can be a challenging task for a child who’s not even 3-feet tall.
“Just seeing them smile and knowing that you can take their mind off of why they’re here,” said Bogut. “That’s the main goal for us.”
While the players certainly did bring lots of smiles to many young faces, the children reciprocated the effect. The players’ spirits were high as they gathered together in the hospital auditorium following the visit. For every smile they helped to put on the face of a child, they found one on themselves in return.
“We’ve been doing this for a number of years, visiting the Children’s Hospital,” said Jon McGlocklin, former Buck and co-founder of the MACC Fund. “And what’s interesting is what it means to the players and the coaches. It’s something that they look forward to each year.”
The walls inside the hospital are splashed with vibrant colors. The carpets are bright and the pictures are lively. Despite the cheerfulness of the building, there’s a grim reality inside. The children who stay for weeks or months on end are sick, many of them battling life-threatening diseases. The children who are lucky enough to live at home and just make routine visits are still fighting against illnesses of some sort.
“When you see someone five, six, seven years old, battling for his life, that’s pretty tough to see,” said Bogut. “No one wants to be here in a hospital at any time, especially during Christmas. If we can just get their minds away from thinking about why they’re here or about how they’re not feeling too well, that’s what our mission is.”
In 1976, when the MACC Fund was founded by McGlocklin and Bucks radio announcer Eddie Doucette, there was a startling 20 percent survival rate among kids with cancer. Now, in 2010, approximately 80 percent of children are surviving the disease, thanks in part to the MACC Fund’s dedication to advancing research and promoting the fight against childhood cancer.
The Bucks and the MACC Fund have embraced a special partnership for the past 34 years that will, no doubt, continue on for many more. Whether raising money, signing autographs or posing for pictures, the Bucks players and coaches will always be willing to help improve an hour, a day or a life of a deserving child.