Tony Lopez admits he doesn’t really follow women’s basketball as much as he does other sports.
But when the Lady Raiders showed up to visit his 7-year-old son Tuesday afternoon, he instantly became a fan.
Texas Tech’s women’s basketball team visited with sick children and their families in the Ronald McDonald House Family Room in Covenant
Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
The athletes iced cookies, played board games and spoke with the kids. They also had gifts for them, and made rounds around the pediatric care hallways to distribute presents to the kids not well enough for the gathering.
Lopez’s son, Jose, was given a Spiderman action figure, and he was hopefully getting ready to leave in the next couple of days, Lopez said.
But not every child gets to go home for Christmas, which is exactly why the Lady Raiders were at Covenant.
“Nobody wants to have a sick child during the holidays,” Tech coach Kristy Curry said, “and it’s a great opportunity for us to come out and spread a little bit of cheer and hopefully, you know, just be able to put some smiles on the faces.”
While Jose played Candy Land with a slew of basketball players, Ronald McDonald House Executive Director Dina Jeffries looked on, thanking the players and Curry for their involvement.
Jeffries, who has been with the charity organization for five years, said the Lady Raiders have participated each year during the holiday season.
The Family Room at Covenant is the perfect atmosphere for the holiday get-together because of what it represents, she said.
Jeffries said the room is there to create a sense of normalcy for relatives of sick children. At the room, people can find a refrigerator, a dining-room table, several comfortable coaches, a place to do laundry and a shower.
“The room makes it feel like normal, like we would be at home,” Lopez said.
The Lady Raiders also have volunteered during the holidays at University Medical Center, Jeffries said.
Junior guard Mary Bokenkamp, an aspiring pediatrician, relishes the time she got to spend with a few of Covenant’s patients.
Because of the rigors of being a Division I basketball player, Bokenkamp does not get to spend as much time at home as most college students.
But speaking with the children at Covenant put things in perspective for the Colorado native.
“Some people are stuck in a hospital, so really we’re very blessed,” she said, “and to be in Lubbock with my teammates, with my coaches playing basketball every day not having to go to school — I mean that’s just as great.”
Some of the children were not as talkative or active as Jose, and Bokenkamp made an effort to talk to the ones who were not going home for the holidays.
Asking about things like school or TV shows, the Lady Raiders attempted to give the kids more than just presents and cookies.
In the midst of an unbeaten nonconference season, Curry and the 15th-ranked Lady Raiders could have spent more time Tuesday prepping for today’s game against Western Kentucky. However, the Lady Raiders recognize there is more to their time at Tech than hoops.
“It just puts things in perspective,” Curry said, “that there’s something more important than the game of basketball, and that’s the game of life.”
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