CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Since the Duke football team arrived in Charlotte on Saturday, the Blue Devils have shuffled from one activity to the next, balancing meetings, team meals and treatment with practice and various bowl outings put on by the Belk Bowl hosts.
While trips to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Charlotte Motor Speedway and Belk for a shopping spree allowed the team to take in the best that the Queen City has to offer, Monday afternoon’s trip to the Levine Children’s Hospital gave the Blue Devils a chance to give back and spread holiday cheer to several children who will be spending their holidays in the hospital.
Levine Children’s Hospital offers care for children afflicted with life-threatening illnesses and injuries from birth through young adulthood and offers more than 30 specialized pediatric services including kidney, liver and heart transplants, blood and marrow transplant, cardiac and cancer care, neurosurgery, rehabilitation service, and the highest designated level of neonatal intensive care. The children that the Blue Devils visited on the day of Christmas Eve were not well enough to spend their holiday at home, so the Blue Devils brought Christmas to Levine.
The entire Duke team made the trip, and nearly 30 players began the visit with renditions of classic Christmas carols while others split off to play games and sign autographs for the patients. Highlighted by an intense bout of Jenga between sophomores David Helton and Blair Holliday and a Levine patient – as well as games of Candyland, Sorry!, Chutes and Ladders and NCAA Football 2012 – the team drew plenty of smiles from the afflicted children and young adults.
“This is something that we’ve really been looking forward to,” sophomore linebacker David Helton said. “It’s a lot of fun to come here and play with the kids, especially at Christmas. A lot of them aren’t able to go home for the holidays, so we’re glad we can come and bring a little bit of Christmas to them.”
One room featured a large projection screen hooked up to an Xbox with a copy of NCAA Football 2012. Redshirt senior defensive end Kenny Anunike took a loss while squaring off against a teenage patient who, Anunike claimed, said he’d never played before. “Then he goes and beats me 22-0,” Anunike said.
Redshirt sophomore tight end Braxton Deaver stepped up to the controller next, picked Duke as his team and instantly inserted his digital likeness into the quarterback position. He engineered two touchdown drives before bidding the Levine patients farewell and a Merry Christmas.
While Deaver may not throw any touchdown passes on Dec. 27 when Duke faces Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl, the Blue Devils can hope for similar results. But for now, on the day before Christmas, the team can head into another practice knowing that win or lose on Thursday in Bank of America Stadium, the patients at Levine Children’s Hospital enjoyed their Christmas just a little bit more because the Blue Devils were in town.