Special Kids Guests of Baylor at Texas Bowl
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While thousands of Baylor University football fans packed Houston's Reliant Stadium to cheer on the Baylor Bears versus Illinois in the Dec. 29 Texas Bowl game, 12-year-old Henry Furler of Houston soaked in the exhilarating atmosphere of his first-ever football game.
"It was very exciting, and it was just a fun experience," he said.
Henry was one of 300 patients and their families from Texas Children's Hospital, who attended the Texas Bowl as Baylor's special guests. The invitation was spurred by Houston alumni serving on a Baylor Texas Bowl Host Committee, who reached out in a cooperative effort to Baylor's sister organizations in Houston - Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital.
"Any time you're working with Baylor folks you're working with vibrant people who care about more than just temporal things, and the committee talked about what constitutes a Baylor Victory, off the field," said Jeff D. Reeter of Houston, a 1984 Baylor graduate and member of the Board of Regents.
"We are so thankful for Baylor's relationship with the Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Medical Center dating back to the 1940s. Because of that relationship, we thought that doing something special for the Texas Children's kids, who themselves are battling with an opponent such as cancer, would be a powerful way to serve and make a difference within the Texas Bowl," Reeter said.
Betsy Furler attended the Texas Bowl with her son, who she describes as "the world's greatest 12-year old." She said Henry has battled a lifetime of serious health problems, such as life-threatening allergies and epilepsy and has been hospitalized 20 times. A gifted-and-talented middle schooler pursuing his Eagle Scout badge, Henry today spends more time as an outpatient at Texas Children's, which is Baylor College of Medicine's primary pediatric training site.
"Almost all of Henry's doctors are affiliated with Baylor," Betsy said. "We thought that was a really important thing for Henry and me to realize that we're a part of the Baylor family. We really felt like special guests of Baylor."
Baylor football's theme for the 2010 season was "Rise Up," and the Bears did, reaching a bowl game for the first time in 16 years. Knowing that the patients, families, doctors and nurses at Texas Children's "Rise Up" every moment of every single day against tremendous odds, Baylor wanted to celebrate that same spirit by providing a fun afternoon focused on something other than medical treatments and hospital stays. Each family received Texas Bowl tickets, food vouchers, a parking pass and a Baylor t-shirt. On game day, children who were unable to leave the hospital were given Baylor Gold Rush t-shirts, so they, too, could celebrate with the Bears.
"We really enjoyed being there with all the other Texas Children's families having a great time," Betsy Furler said. "It was a fun uplifting family experience for us."
Just before halftime, Reeter made his way to section 353 to visit with the Furlers and the rest of the TCH kids and their families. The Bears were behind on the scoreboard, but it didn't dampen the joy Reeter found in that section.
"These kids were so positive and enthusiastic that it made the football game less of a focus than the pursuit of life abundantly and impacting others for good," Reeter said. "My time in that section with those kiddos turned out to be the highlight of the Texas Bowl game."
Although the game didn't turn out the way Baylor fans would have liked, the university certainly made an impression on Henry. He hopes to attend Baylor one day with dreams of becoming a scientist.
Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275