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Tulsa players share smiles with young patients at St. Jude on Thursday.
Tulsa players share smiles with young patients at St. Jude on Thursday.
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Dec. 28, 2012

Memphis, Tenn. - A group football student-athletes from both Tulsa and Iowa State had the opportunity to visit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital on Thursday afternoon. The players received a brief tour of the facility and then visited with patients and signed autographs. Tulsa also distributed to patients TU backpacks consisting of a TU miniature football or TU beanie and TU water bottle.

The visit was uplifting for Tulsa players and coaches, some who have had personal experiences with cancer. Tulsa Assistant Head Coach Denver Johnson was a hit with patients and family members. Johnson was on the other side in the late 1990s when his four-year old daughter, Kelsey, was diagnosed with leukemia. She is now cancer-free, studying nursing and hopes to someday work at St. Jude's. Kelsey, mother Danita Kay and sister Taylor also joined Coach Johnson on the visit to St. Jude's.

Tulsa Head Coach Bill Blankenship, who is a Hodgkin's Lymphoma survivor, was somewhat emotional talking about the great work of St. Jude's and the opportunity Tulsa players received to visit with some of the young patients and their families.

"It's pretty special to have been someone that kind of knew about St. Jude's Hospital from afar, and then to be here and actually see what they're doing and to hear the story and understand how much they give and how much it takes. It's pretty awesome to get a chance to see our guys be such a small part of making some of these kids smile today," said Blankenship.

Blankenship personally knows how many people are affected when one person has cancer, but also how many people it takes to find a cure and assist in a patient's care.

"Being a cancer survivor you know how many people it takes to make an impact for you personally, but then for these little ones it's pretty special. They're committed here to children and that's an awesome cause," added Blankenship.