The Notre Dame and Florida State football teams will be opponents on Thursday in the Champs Sports Bowl, but they were all teammates Tuesday morning in Orlando as they helped bring smiles to the faces of children battling life threatening illnesses.
The Irish and Seminoles took part in an event at the Gives Kids the World Village, located near Disney World. For two hours, players from both teams interacted with kids ages 3 to 18.
"When we're going through the week and we're just focused on football, we lose track of what's really important," says Notre Dame captain Harrison Smith. "When you come out here today and see these kids and families all excited to be here and all excited just to enjoy one and other and this village that's been built, it kind of opens our eyes."
Irish linebacker Darius Fleming took control of the ice cream stand. He handed out treats to the kids, their parents, his teammates and even to Florida State players. Fleming has a close friend whose siblings battled sickle cell anemia. Among their wishes, to spend time in Orlando at its various theme parks. That's what what Give Kids the World provides. For 25 years, it's made journeys to Orlando possible for kids needing it.
"They're having struggles in their lives and they shouldn't because they are so young," Fleming says of the kids they are visiting with. "This is a great opportunity for us to open our minds and see different things and for the kids to forget about what they are going through and have fun."
Irish center Mike Golic Jr. and quarterback Andrew Hendrix were among those dancing and singing. The Irish duo put on quite the performance with their rendition of YMCA.
"It's a blast being out here and help the kids," says Hendrix. "Me and Mike just did the YMCA. It was pretty cool to be out their dancing with them, come out during the bowl game and help some people out."
Both head coaches agree days like this put things in perspective for their players.
"They can put a smile on a young man's face, or a family's face for a day that are going through tough times," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher explains. "I think it makes them realize, that's just because a coach chews them out in practice or they have a tough day in the classroom, that there are a lot of folks battling more adversity then they are."
"Just being at this facility and these kids and Florida State being here as well, i think its a special day for everyone," says Irish coach Brian Kelly.
In 25 years, Give Kids the World has served over 110,000 families from all 50 states and more than 70 countries. Familes enjoy a weeklong, cost-free vacation that includes accomodations at Give Kids the World Village, meals, donated attraction tickets and more.
A child with life-threatening illness between the ages of 3 and 18, whose one Wish is to visit any of Central Florida's best loved attractions, may have their dream vacation come true by first being identified by a doctor as a child with a life-threatening illness.
For more information, visit givekidstheworld.org.