They came bearing shirts, autographed posters and an array of other gifts for patients at Lawrence Memorial Hospital on Monday.
The Kansas University women’s basketball team has been participating in the holiday tradition for 16 years. Head coach Bonnie Henrickson said her team appreciated the opportunity to visit with patients.
“It’s nice to get to play Santa Claus, and everybody loves KU gear,” she said. “But mainly it’s a chance to wish everybody well and wish them good luck to get out of the hospital.”
Kelly Kohn, a junior on the team, said the experience provides a welcome break from the practice and game routine that the team settles into during the season.
“It’s probably one of the most fulfilling things we do as a team,” she said. “The fact that you can make somebody else so happy is a great feeling.”
Team members visited the Family Birthing Center, and stopped in and showered new parents, their new babies, and soon-to-be parents with KU paraphernalia.
Allison Koonce and her husband, Michael, were expecting twins on Monday morning, and had been in the hospital since before Christmas Day. Allison said she was happy to break up what can become a monotonous routine.
“It was nice to see someone other than the medical staff,” she said. “It’s kind of like ‘Groundhog Day’ every day in here.”
KU’s Trademark Licensing Office collects the items from officially licensed vendors. This year the more than 1,300 items were donated with a retail value of about $27,000.