Dec. 21, 2000
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Traditions -they are interwoven into the very fiber that exemplifies the Notre Dame spirit. From the painting of the football helmets, the Dillon Hall pep rallies or the cherished steps of the main building – pride and enthusiasm toward the most storied of Fighting Irish traditions are what makes life under the Golden Dome unequivocal. However, there is one Notre Dame tradition that may be less known, yet its significance is no less extraordinary.
Earlier this month, Notre Dame continued to build upon this little known tradition as the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) held its fourth annual Pediatric Christmas Party in the Monogram Room of the Joyce Center. The Christmas party is a unique holiday celebration aimed at honoring the children of the Memorial Hospital Pediatric Oncology clinic. Many of the children who receive care in the clinic spend much of the year enduring the painstaking rigors of cancer treatment. However, on this grand Dec. 6 evening, the chemotherapy and doctor visits were set aside as joy, laughter and togetherness served as welcomed relief.
Initial festivities for the event began in the late afternoon as the decoration committee, comprised of about 30 student-athletes, made a memorable mark on the party by transforming the Monogram Room into a splendor of holiday delight. Student-athletes ranging from a variety of teams, gifted party-goers with a wonderful display of creative genius as carefully hung colored lights and sparkling garland awaited the special guests. The stage was set for a magical evening.
Braving the brisk winter weather, the arriving children and families were greeted by over 120 student-athletes, representing 25 of the 26 varsity sports. For many of the student-athletes, the special evening provides an opportunity to reunite with friends they had made from previous years. To kick off the festivities, the cheerleading team made a surprise visit to lead a few cheers as the host student-athletes assisted the children through an array of holiday crafts. The children made individually designed holiday cookies, decorated a giant gingerbread house and combined glue, glitter, cotton balls, ribbons, bows and keenly artistic minds to create a few Santa Clause portraits.
Once the holiday crafts were complete, a jolly, gridiron-giant Saint Nick, played by sophomore Ryan Gillis of the football team, lead the entire group in an all out game of musical chairs, which has become a long-time party favorite. Following the championship round of musical chairs, the group circled-up to participate in the ever-popular “chicken dance. “
Yet, the fun did not end there. Each year, the children are grouped into teams to decorate – not a tree, but a freestanding student-athlete. Four student-athletes, junior Liz Grow of the women’s track team, senior Adam Anderson of the men’s golf team, senior Neil Komadoski of the hockey team and freshman Tom Timmermans of the men’s basketball team were ornamented with garland, bows and loads of laughter as the children raced against the clock to decorate the student-athletes.
To wrap up the evening, the children enjoyed a photo opportunity on Santa’s lap as they had a chance to share with the jolly old football player their Christmas wishes. The children also received a gift stocking from Memorial Hospital and a gift bag from the athletic department. After visiting with Santa, all of the families were invited to stay and attend the women’s basketball game versus Villanova in the Joyce Center.
Through all of its storied traditions, Notre Dame has come to mean so many things to so many people, but to a special group of children, it has come to mean a wonderful tradition of joy, laughter and family during the holiday season.