Several patients of Brenner Children’s Hospital and their families were able to attend Saturday’s football game against the University of Delaware for free, thanks to Wake Forest Athletics partnership with non-profit organization Special Spectators.
The volunteer-run organization was founded about 15 years ago and has since been dedicated to providing ill children the opportunity to attend a football game as VIP guests with their families. This experience allows families to escape from the hospital setting for a day and find a degree of normalcy in their lives.
“Special Spectators partners with Wake Forest to give the families of Brenner Children’s Hospital a day away to get out as a family and have some laughs, and to inject joy into their world,” founder and executive director Blake Rockwell said.
The organization has partnerships with several schools across the ACC, including University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and East Carolina University within North Carolina. Their work with Wake Forest began seven years ago, and a strong connection has been established since.
“We thought this was something we would certainly want to be a part of,” said Mike Odom, the assistant Athletic Director for Marketing and Special Projects. “Hopefully the tickets have put a smile on some faces in our community who may need to have some fun rather than worrying about treatment. Hopefully they can enjoy their night away from the hospital.”
The families who attended this year’s Special Spectators game at Wake Forest were able to sit in the Touchdown Club area of the stadium, which includes an indoor seating area and food.
The VIP experience also includes priority parking to allow families with wheelchairs or other difficulties with transportation the ability to have a stress free experience.
In addition to the work with Special Spectators, the athletic department has done other volunteer work with Brenner Children’s Hospital, including an event in the winter in which Danny Manning and the basketball team purchase toys for the children of Brenner Children’s Hospital.
While Wake Forest students are not typically involved in Special Spectators, they are encouraged to contact the athletic department if they want to be a game day host.
“Going forward we would love to have students get involved,” Rockwell said. “We are a completely volunteer-run organization; we just love sharing our passion for sports and the joy of game day.”