Kansas City, Mo. — Kansas University’s basketball players spent a couple hours of high-quality time with more than 200 patients Wednesday morning at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
“We sat down with them. We cuddled with them. We watched TV with them. We just had some laughs to try to brighten up their day,” said 6-foot-9 KU junior power forward Markieff Morris, who served as a human teddy bear for the youths.
“It was a great experience getting in there and interacting with the kids. We put a lot of smiles on their faces, and they made us smile, also.”
The Jayhawks — who crammed into a couple of vans for the 45-minute drive to K.C. and their first team-bonding volunteer experience of the 2010-11 school year — signed T-shirts, casts, posters and pictures.
They even played Wii when challenged by the patients.
“It was a great experience to talk to the kids and ask them questions, how things are going. Seeing they are all happy was a good thing,” 6-9 KU sophomore power forward Thomas Robinson said.
“I had more questions than the children did. This is my first time on this type of level doing this. It definitely makes you think you are blessed with your life, that you have a good situation. No matter what their problem is, they are happy, and it’s good to see that,” Robinson added.
The trip reminded KU senior guard Tyrel Reed of a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., following KU’s national championship victory over Memphis in 2008.
“It is humbling to see the situations at such a young age those kids go through,” Reed said. “It’s good for us to see how fortunate we are and to not take things for granted as players and people in general. It’s great to see them have their lives brightened up.
“It’s was as fun for us as them. We love to come out and do things like this. It’s definitely one of the perks we get for being a KU basketball player, getting to go out in the community.”
The Jayhawks will hold their annual Special Olympics clinic this school year, read for students at area junior highs and perhaps have some other outings yet-to-be scheduled.
“Our guys love to give back. Coach (Bill Self) loves to give back. This kind of stuff makes a difference with our kids as well as those we were able to meet today,” said KU staff member Kyle Keller, who was in charge of this particular outing.
“We are one big family. Doing things like this brings us closer together,” Morris said. “I think we are already close. Something like this brings unity to the team.”
Interviews, then lunch
The Jayhawks met with media members in the parking lot of Gates Bar-B-Q on Brooklyn Avenue before heading into the legendary restaurant for lunch. Hospital officials did not allow the media to take pictures or interview players or patients on hospital grounds.
Summer camp revisited
Markieff Morris and Robinson joined teammates Marcus Morris, Josh Selby and Tyshawn Taylor at the recent Adidas Nations Experience in Chicago. The KU players worked as camp counselors for the high school players in attendance and played pick-up basketball with the college players in the evenings.
“It was very fun to compete against other talent from other schools and reunite with my teammates. It was good to see them,” Robinson said.
Noted Morris: “It was a good experience to play against other great players from around the country. Our guys did a great job at the camp. We were all out there to take care of business. I think that’s what we did.”