With just three days until the Russell Athletic Bowl, players from Clemson and Oklahoma took time away from the field to play some different games. Both teams visited the Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee, where they got to dance, play basketball and hoola-hoop with children facing life-threatening illnesses.
Give Kids The World is a non-profit organization that provides those children and their families from around the world to experience a memorable, joyful, cost-free visit to the Central Florida attractions, and to enjoy the magic of Give Kids The World Village for as long as there is a need.
“It puts a lot of things into perspective,” Oklahoma sophomore QB Trevor Knight said. “We can get caught up in our day-to-day lives of struggles that we go through but these are struggles that surpass all of that.”
Knight, along with his teammates and Clemson players, acted like little kids again for a few hours handing out ice cream, painting each other’s faces and having a dance-off with some of the kids.
“I think that a lot of our job is to inspire kids and to motivate them and make them happy so any time that we can take time out of our day to come out and inspire these kids is great,” Oklahoma junior LB Eric Striker said. “I’m a big kid myself so I’m always happy.”
Striker is from Seffner, Fla., just east of Tampa, and played high school at Armwood High School. Striker said that despite being so close he’s never visited the Give Kids the World Village before today.
“I take advantage of every opportunity that I get like this because it won’t happen a lot,” Striker said.
The players weren’t the only ones having fun. Head Coaches Bob Stoops and Dabo Swinney decided to take part in the activities as well.
“What I told the players was ‘do what you can to put a smile on a child’s face and enjoy their company and make them feel special,’” Stoops said. “This event is awesome. What an incredible place. It’s fun to get to learn about it and to be here and enjoy it for a while.”
The highlight of the morning came when both teams gathered in the courtyard for a dance circle with the kids.
“It’s an honor,” Clemson senior DT Grady Jarrett said. “ Everybody on this team has somebody in their family that has dealt with something that these kids are going through and we just want to make that situation easier for them and put a smile on their face. It’s really an honor for us. They really have no idea how much they do for us.”
With a few days to go until the bowl, this was one of the last opportunities for teams to cut loose before final preparations began.
“When you go to a great bowl game like the one we are in you want to have time to give back,” Jarrett said. There is nothing wrong with letting your guard down and making people happy in between practice.”