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It’s 8:00pm on a Thursday night as three of my teammates and I walk into an eight-year-old’s room on the 12th floor of Mott Children’s Hospital, greeted by a huge smile of a kid who gets to meet some Michigan athletes.

This is why Thursday nights are my favorite night of the week – I get the opportunity to make kids smile.

For the last 30 years, Michigan From the Heart, a charitable organization run by volunteers at the University of Michigan Hospital, has been connecting University of Michigan student-athletes with pediatric patients and families every Thursday night.

Faith Bridgeman, a sophomore on the women’s rowing team, says that her favorite part of volunteering is meeting the kids. “My favorite part about going to Mott is getting to meet so many happy and energetic kids who don’t dwell on being sick, rather they use it as a learning experience to become empowered and strong individuals,” said Bridgeman.

Bridgeman could not have described this experience more perfectly. Each week, these kids find a way to make us laugh and smile. They inspire me to take a situation that may not be ideal and turn it into an opportunity rather than a burden. 

At Mott, student-athletes have the opportunity to volunteer on six different floors: the cancer floor, child psychology, the intensive care unit, the cardiac care floor, short-term stay, as well as the main hospital. All have their own perks, but Bridgeman (along with me and a couple of our other teammates) find the cancer floor to be the most rewarding.

“My favorite floor is the cancer floor because sometimes you can build a better relationship with the kids if they are staying for a little bit, and getting to catch up with a kid and learning more about them is really special,” stated Bridgeman. “There is also nothing better than hearing a kid say ‘I’m going home tomorrow!’ – it just is so exciting to know they are happy and getting better.”

Going to Mott every week can be tough – trying to balance classes with practice, time to do homework, and studying for upcoming exams can be overwhelming. However, it is never something that we think of as a burden, it is an opportunity. We are incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to meet such amazing, strong, and inspiring kids every week. 

Each Thursday is filled with new stories and experiences that are never forgotten. Last week, I spent time with a 5-year-old who was so excited to see us. He immediately stopped watching his movie and started having a nerf gun fight with all of us.

Bridgeman recalls visiting with a boy she had seen for a few weeks in a row. “He had such a spunky sass and attitude which made him fun to visit. One week on our visit he kept asking to open presents, hoping they were LEGOs. His mom responded, ‘Grandma bought you all of these presents, but, buddy, you know they aren’t LEGOs’ and for the rest of the night he was shaking each present to try and hear a jingle, which would imply that they were LEGOs.” Bridgeman continued to describe how the mom explained that he was going home tomorrow. 

“I was so sad that he was leaving Mott because I looked forward to visiting him each week, but then again, I was filled with so much joy knowing that he got to go home,” said Bridgeman. 

Every room experience is different. Some kids welcome you and are excited to meet you, while others have had a rough day and do not really want to be bothered by some kids hoping to make conversation. However, either way, the impact these kids leave on us as student-athletes is incredible. The smile on their faces when they get a visitor that just wants to play right before bedtime is better than words can describe. 

I always hope that we are making their day a little better, but I want them to know that they make our whole week better. Thursdays never really used to mean anything to me, it was just one more day in the way of Friday and the beginning of the weekend. But now…Thursdays are my favorite day of the week!

As Bridgeman stated so perfectly: “I genuinely receive so much happiness from these kids.” I could not agree more. 

To learn more about Michigan From the Heart visit http://mifromtheheart.org or follow them on Facebook at Michigan From the Heart.

A Michigan native, Madeline started writing for Her Campus in 2019. Currently a senior at the University of Michigan majoring in Neuroscience with a minor in Spanish Language and Literature and is currently applying for physical therapy school. Aside from Her Campus, Madeline used to row for the University of Michigan Women's Rowing team, attends every sporting event she can (especially Football and Hockey), and loves spending time outside.
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