Special Spectators watch Zips win big

“The University of Akron athletic department, working with children from Akron Children’s Hospital, gave seriously ill patients and their families a day of fun at the Rubber Bowl for the UA-Kent State football game and tailgate party Saturday. The event was hosted by the athletic department as part Akron’s collaboration with Special Spectators.”

The University of Akron athletic department, working with children from Akron Children’s Hospital, gave seriously ill patients and their families a day of fun at the Rubber Bowl for the UA-Kent State football game and tailgate party Saturday.

The event was hosted by the athletic department as part Akron’s collaboration with Special Spectators.

Special Spectators is a nonprofit organization which focuses on creating special days for seriously ill children and their families at college sporting events across the country.

The event not only served to create a day of fun for the children, but it also gave student-athletes the opportunity to make a powerful contribution to the community by spending time with the children.

Before and during the game, the children, who were seated in a section just west of the main entrance at the Rubber Bowl for the tailgate, were visited by members of the UA cheerleading squad, women’s basketball team, track and field members and other student-athletes.

The university athletic department provided the tickets for the game as well as tents, tables and chairs for the tailgate party.

According to Blake Rockwell, executive director of Special Spectators, the children who took part in the tailgating party were not current patients at Children’s Hospital, but are children who regularly receive outpatient treatment for their conditions.

The children became involved with Special Spectators after being selected by their health care professionals.

After we got the commitment from the athletic department, Rockwell said. We turned it over to Akron, Children’s Hospital to select the families; they know which kids are going to be healthy enough to participate.

Rockwell said that the goal of the Special Spectators events is to create fun for the whole family because in many cases it’s the first time in a long time that some of them are able to do something together without focusing on the illness.

One parent told me that her son had said he was glad he had cancer so he could go to an event like this, Rockwell said. It means that much to some of these kids.

Special Spectators has been in existence for six college football seasons and has helped host more than 125 events. Saturday’s Akron-Kent State game was the third UA football event that Special Spectators has taken part in.

The organization, with the help of college athletic departments throughout the country, has allowed more than 4,300 people, including very ill children, their parents and siblings to attend sporting events.