Jayhawk Insider: Making spirits bright
LAWRENCE, Kan. – For over 20 years, Kansas women’s basketball has partnered with the Crimson and Blue Holiday Project to brighten spirits at Lawrence Memorial Hospital around the Holidays. On Thursday morning, the 2018-19 Jayhawk squad took part in the tradition.
Every season around this time of year, the Jayhawks spend a few hours wondering the halls of LMH, making spirits bright with all kinds of KU gear from sweatshirts and hats to gloves and blankets. It’s a tradition that started nearly three decades ago and continues to warm hearts.
“We bring all this gear and they get to wear it,” said senior guard Kylee Kopatich. “Everyone had a ton of family that was there and everyone was so glad that we got to visit them.”
While all the Kansas swag is nice, it’s the time spent talking about basketball that means the most to both patient and student-athlete. Some were familiar with the Jayhawks, while others became fans of the program after just a few minutes.
“Even families that weren’t Jayhawk fans were glad and loved everything that we gave to them,” said junior guard Niccolly Ramalho. “Everyone was really interested in our schedule and when we played next. It was really cool.”
Over the years, the Jayhawks have turned many patients into fans, but have also seen some familiar faces while visiting the hospital.
During head coach Brandon Schneider’s first trip to LMH with the Crimson and Blue Holiday Project, he ran into a former player that he coached at Emporia State. She’s now a doctor at LMH. Another year, the Jayhawks dropped off gifts and spent time with the Hawkins Family, Jeff Hawkins played for Kansas from 2001-05.
Whether the faces are new or familiar, it’s a special tradition that the Jayhawks and patients alike look forward to each year.
“It means a lot, but not just for them. It means a lot to us too,” said Ramalho. “Seeing everything here changes our view of life a little bit.”
The Crimson and Blue Holiday Project is spearheaded by Kansas Athletics’ trademark and licensing office, which asks vendors to contribute one or more items that they regularly produce and send it to Assistant Athletics Director of Trademark Licensing Paul Vander Tuig. From there, Kansas Athletics disperses the KU gear to charitable causes throughout the holiday season.
Among the charitable organizations that benefit from the Crimson and Blue Holiday Project is Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Vander Tuig enlists the help of Kansas women’s basketball to visit the local hospital, handing out KU goods and visiting with patients. While the project has been giving to charities for 26 years now, Kansas women’s basketball has been visiting LMH with the project for the last 24 years.
The Jayhawks return to Allen Fieldhouse following a brief holiday break for their final nonconference matchup of the season, as Kansas takes on Vermont on Sunday, Dec. 30 at 2 p.m., inside Allen Fieldhouse. The game is available on the Jayhawk Television Network/ESPN+ or the Jayhawk Radio Network.
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