Football players host Make-A-Wish families

February, 17, 2013
2/17/13
12:00
PM ET
STATE COLLEGE, Pa -- Three small children, between the ages of 3 and 5, weren't intimidated by Penn State's mammoth football players. A boy in a blue hat, who just reached Kyle Carter's waist, instead actually tried to intimidate the 6-foot-3 tight end.

"Boo!" he yelled, giggling furiously once Carter and two other players -- Carl Nassib and Brian Gaia -- feigned being frightened.


They're fighting for their lives every day and, just being able to see them fight and be happy, it's really inspiring.


-- Penn State DE Brad Bars

"Boo!" his brother joined in. Soon enough, all three siblings were joining in a chorus more fit for Halloween. "Boo!" Laughter. "Boo!" More laughter.

The children were part of the 28 Make-A-Wish families who descended on the Lasch Football Building to hang out with the football players, tour the facilities -- and even try on some pads and uniforms in the locker room. Saturday afternoon's event was part of THON weekend, which is centered around a student dance marathon that helps raise money to fight pediatric cancer. Just last year, THON helped raise $10.68 million.

"Every time, it just gets better," Carter said. "This is definitely the most [players]. I'm not sure if guys are just feeling they really wanted to give back this year; I just feel like the whole team is here today. I can't think of one guy who is not here."

Even true freshman Adam Breneman, who's been enrolled about a month, slowly walked through the building's hallways -- stopping every so often to point out the meaning of plaques or what goes on in certain rooms. Donovan Smith, a 316-pound offensive tackle, couldn't have caused more laughter -- well, maybe with his teammates-- if he had slipped on a purple dinosaur costume. Steven Bench chatted up any adult or kid within earshot.

And, in the locker room, kids flew around the blue carpet while football players chased them. Many comically tried on players' oversized shoulder pads, helmets, jerseys and gloves and posed for photos. For many of the Make-A-Wish families -- and the football players -- it was a day to remember.

Here are some of the players' most memorable parts:

DE Brad Bars: "My favorite part about today is just seeing them smile. They're doing way more stuff than we are. They're fighting for their lives every day and, just being able to see them fight and be happy, it's really inspiring. Just to take them into the weight room and see how happy they are just to be active and all that stuff, that's my favorite part. Just seeing them be happy and helping them be happy."

RB Zach Zwinak: "It's just the whole thing. I don't even think I could pick one part. These kids go through a lot. They struggle more every day with stuff that we'll never know that it's like. And to just give them a day where they're the center of attention, make them feel special, it's important. That's what makes me feel good. This day just keeps getting better and better."

CB Adrian Amos: "Just seeing them laugh, going into the weight room and seeing them trying to do the things we do. The little kid did pull-ups and things like that. Just to see them have fun --they're not thinking about their problems; they're thinking about having fun by just seeing what we do every day."

TE Carter: "I mean, I really look forward to today. Just starting out going to THON, I felt excited. And I knew the kids would be excited. I know they just love walking around here and everything. Just getting to know the family we had -- the Schultz family -- that was probably the best part to me."

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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