Michigan State Press Release
On Thursday, Sept. 16, former Michigan State hockey student-athletes and current Detroit Red Wings Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller were on hand with a handful of current MSU athletes to present a check for more than $22,000 to the Sparrow Hospital Foundation on behalf of MSU Athletics.
Michigan State athletics has had a positive ongoing relationship with Sparrow and since Miller started the Spartan Buddies program back in 2005, representatives from nearly all of MSU's 25 teams have visited children in the Sparrow pediatric ward and intensive care units. During this time, the teams and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee have organized fundraisers to help generate money that aid in the fight against cancer and help fund the playroom at Sparrow Hospital, among other projects.
The student-athletes have generated this money through various outreach activities like Make-A-Change, the Children’s Miracle Network and the student-athlete proms. The largest fundraiser, however, was the hockey program’s Shoot for a Cure initiative that was started by Abdelkader in January of 2008. Since he founded Shoot for a Cure, more than $33,000 has been raised through that initiative in the fight against children's cancer. The money has gone to both Sparrow Foundation and to Brandon's Defense Foundation.
On Thursday, the presentation of the check was one part of the visit. Abdelkader and Miller joined with current hockey players AJ Sturges, Drew Palmisano, Anthony Hayes and Torey Krug to visit pediatric patients and sign autographs. They also enjoyed time with the patients in the pediatric playroom - a spot Abdelkader and Miller had spent considerable hours during their undergraduate days.
"I've been coming here for maybe eight years," recalled Miller. "It was once a week in college. A lot of the nurses and caregivers are the same and it’s always wonderful to catch up with those old friends.
"We always told the kids, 'I hope you're not here when I get back' - you want them to be getting better and getting on with lives outside of the hospital," added Miller. "But we've been very lucky to meet some amazing people here and maybe make a difference in a child's day. The goal is to play with them, maybe make them forget for a little while that they are sick. We want to put smiles on their faces."
"The thing I have noticed the most about Spartan Buddies is the relationships that the MSU athletes form with our patients," noted Joy Wiseman, development director of the Sparrow Foundation. "There's a love, there's a caring - they aren't just here putting in their time. That's the biggest part of the program - these athletes really know why they are here and why it's important."
"This is amazing to see how the programs that Drew and I started while we were at Michigan State have continued to grow," noted Abdelkader. "We owe a huge thank you to our fans who have supported the initiatives like Make-A-Change and Shoot for a Cure. Thank you to the student-athletes who have continued to be involved in Spartan Buddies and have helped carry out initiatives at hockey and football games that raise money in the fight against cancer.
"Thank you to everyone who has helped us make a difference."