Newman University partnered with Wichita's Littlest Heroes (WLH) Saturday, Feb. 10, to provide a fun day for children who are battling a life-threatening medical condition. The athletic department hosted a free breakfast and free basketball and cheerleading clinics for the little heroes and their families.
The WLH organization was founded in 2014 with the goal of bringing together families of children battling illnesses to create support and put on fun events for the children.
Associate Athletic Director Maureen Rohleder said, “It’s similar to Make-a-Wish, but on a hometown level. They plan all kinds of events and fun things for these kids to do when they are well enough to attend.” She continued, “We decided to help the group by having them attend a game, be a part of our brunch and pancake feed before the games, as well as put on a mini-clinic for them.”
The athletic department's involvement with WLH started with Julian Randle, the 11-year-old recruit on the Newman men's basketball team. Randle is a part of WLH and through them, he found Team IMPACT who then matched him up with the Jets basketball team.
To kick off the day, Great Western Dining and Chris Cakes provided a free breakfast for the Newman community and the little heroes. Hundreds of pancakes were made as athletes, faculty, staff and community members came to eat. At 11 a.m., the children could decide whether to attend the basketball or cheerleading clinic.
Little kids filled the gym as some Newman basketball players conducted dribbling and shooting exercises.
Chrystal Miller had a son in the basketball clinic and a daughter in the cheerleading clinic. Her 12-year-old son, Chance, is the hero but her 5-year-old daughter, Corlyssa, may have been more excited about the clinic than anyone.
"All she's talked about is cheerleading for three weeks," said Miller.
The Miller family has been involved with WLH for nearly two years and thought it was great that Newman got involved as well. Being a part of the organization has provided a great support system for her and her family.
"It gives kids the opportunity to go out and try stuff that they normally wouldn't get to do," she said. "And it also allows kids and families to connect together in this group. We all may be fighting different battles but our end goal is the same — to get our kids over that hurdle."
Miller's mother, Sharon Booker, was there to support her grandchildren. Booker said she comes to the WLH events with her grandchildren whenever she can.
"It's a good experience for all the kids," Booker said. "Being involved and getting to try new things is great."
The day ended with the women's basketball game at 1 p.m. and the men's game at 3 p.m.
The little cheerleaders got to cheer with the Johnny Jet and the Jet cheerleaders on the sideline of the women's game. They showed off two cheers they had learned in the clinic at half-time of the women's game.
The boys who attended the basketball clinic stayed for the women's game and were announced at half-time and applauded. They were all very excited to attend the event.
Booker added, "Newman University being involved is absolutely wonderful."