Campus News

Bulls bring joy to pediatric patients

UB football players surround a young girl in a hospital bed

UB players visit with patient Catherine Whitman, 5, during a visit on Wednesday by the Dollar General Bowl teams to USA Children's & Women's Hospital in Mobile. Photo: Mike Kittrell

By DAVID J. HILL

Published December 19, 2018

“It means a lot putting smiles on the kids’ faces.”
Jaret Patterson, freshman running back
UB Bulls

MOBILE, ALABAMA — Members of the UB football team visited with young patients at a local children’s hospital this morning, one of several scheduled events taking place in the lead-up to the Dollar General Bowl here on Saturday.

One Bulls player in particular knows exactly what some of the kids are going through. Austin Kunick, a junior offensive lineman from Victor, New York, was 4 ½ years old when he was diagnosed with leukemia.

“Being in the hospital’s not that fun, so it’s nice to bring some joy, bring some presents and see a little smile on all the kids’ faces. I know what it’s been like,” Kunick said after meeting with a few pediatric patients at the University of South Alabama’s Children’s & Women’s Hospital.

“I went through a lot of experiences like this, meeting players from the Bills and the Bulls. To be able to come back and talk to kids that are in the same experience that I had, it’s really nice because it feels like I’ve come full circle. I’m able to give back in the same way that was given to me when I was little,” he said.

A select group of players from both UB and Troy, along with each team’s head coach, took part in the visit. “The joy that you’re going to bring these kids is really fun to see,” said hospital administrator Chris Jett, who welcomed the players and coaches.

Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold visits with patient Tyler Moore, 3, and the child's mother Rebecca Moore of Mobile, Ala., as Dollar General Bowl players tour USA Children's & Women's Hospital on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, in Mobile.

UB head coach Lance Leipold visits with patient Tyler Moore, 3, and Tyler's mother, Rebecca Moore. Photo: Mike Kittrell

Hospital staff guided players from room to room as they visited with patients in the pediatric ward, posing for pictures and handing out Dollar General-branded teddy bears, along with UB Bulls posters and magnets.

“This is a great opportunity for our players to see a facility like this and interact with young people that are going through their personal situations,” said UB head coach Lance Leipold. “It’s a great opportunity, a great experience and really a life lesson for all of us.”

For Bulls running back Jaret Patterson, the hospital visit provided a chance to heed his mother’s advice. “My mom is an educator and she always stressed to me ‘give back any way you can,’ and that’s what we’re doing today,” said Patterson, a freshman from Glendale, Maryland.

Buffalo safety Cory Gross Jr. visits with patient Donovan Brunson, 15, of Mobile, Ala., as Dollar General Bowl players tour USA Children's & Women's Hospital on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, in Mobile.

Bulls safety Cory Gross Jr. visits with patient Donovan Brunson, 15. Photo Mike Kittrell

“It means a lot putting smiles on the kids’ faces,” he added.

The Bulls had their first team practice today at a nearby high school that has a turf field. Tonight is team night at Eastern Shores Lanes, where players from UB and Troy will compete for the coveted Dollar General Bowl Bowling Championship trophy. The team that’s won the bowling event has won the bowl game 15 out of the past 19 years.

The Bulls will tour the USS Alabama on Thursday morning before heading off to practice.