Oct. 11, 2016
By Luke Chval (`20)
On a midweek evening at the end of September, a young man named Modesto sat at a table surrounded by his older sister and half a dozen Notre Dame hockey players.
They goaded him playfully about the Boston Red Sox baseball cap he donned with pride. They asked the 13-year-old South Bend native questions about his favorite things, including his sports fanship, and exchanged jokes.
That night Modesto would become the newest member of the Notre Dame hockey team. The gentle ribbing serving only as an induction into the club.
As an institution known for both its rigorous academics and outstanding athletics, Notre Dame is a university plentiful with student-athletes who have crammed and hectic schedules and lives. On September 28, however, dozens of parents, children and Notre Dame student-athletes convened in Club Naimoli on the highest floor of the Purcell Pavilion, neither for an academic purpose nor an athletic one.
In a partnership with Memorial Children’s Hospital of South Bend through a program called Fighting Irish Fight for Life, Notre Dame athletics supports local pediatric cancer patients by “signing” each one to a various Notre Dame team. The event started with people buzzing around a pizza buffet, while the new child teammates sat at tables surrounded by the athletes from their teams.
“It’s my first time (participating in Fighting Irish Fight for Life)”, Modesto said. “I looked forward to spending time with the guys, they’re very nice and friendly.”
Modesto’s older sister, Alejandra, accompanied him to the event in a show of support.
“My mother doesn’t speak English, and my dad is working, so I was the only one who was able to bring Modesto, so I decided to come out for him,” Alejandra said. “It’s a really good distraction considering everything that’s going on.”
Then people were called to gather in the seats in front of the stage, where each new teammate came up, signed their letter of intent, answered questions from MCs Tyler Newsome (junior, football) and Bo Brauer (junior, hockey), and took a team picture.
When it came time for Modesto to go up to the stage with the hockey team, Brauer asked his teammate, junior goalie and captain Cal Petersen, how Modesto would help out the team on the ice. Petersen pointed to Modesto’s competitive drive.
After all of the signings, Modesto rejoined his sister, beaming with pride, over his new formal letter of intent with the University of Notre Dame.
“I wasn’t that nervous, because obviously I was telling jokes up there and having fun,” Modesto said.
It was then that Modesto got his chance to show off that competitive drive, as each team competed in a series of races against each other: eating an Oreo without using hands, pulling tissues from a box, and stacking blocks on someone’s head. Brauer also led each of the teams through these exercises while acting as referee.
Eventually the gleeful night came to a close and as everyone filtered out into the elevators, Brauer remained. He cleaned up the remnants of each game while several parents came up and expressed their appreciation.
“I learned that taking the time like this to just to make kids feel special makes you feel so good inside,” Brauer said. “Giving back is what it’s all about, especially for us athletes that are given so much with our locker rooms and our stadiums that we get to play in. We get so much, and with that comes a responsibility, so getting to make these kids feel like all-stars tonight and being with them is just awesome. Hopefully we can do more events like this, just making kids feel great.”