Monday, October 7, 2013

Take a Step Back and Say Thanks

Sport is such an interesting concept in our society. There are aspects of sport which are spectacular to witness, such as your favorite team winning the championship, experiencing a Cinderella team make a run in March Madness, or achieving a personal goal. Sport can teach us leadership, teamwork, strength, and the ability to overcome adversity. Along with all these benefits of sport, there are the areas of improvement. Governance structures in the NCAA and other leagues are questionable. Safety issues for players are becoming more relevant in the modern era of technology. Finally, the competitive drive in sport can be taken too far causing cheating, lying, and breaking the law. Despite all these pros and cons that are always at the heart of discussions about sport, there is one aspect that is way overlooked – professional athletes giving back to the sick and disabled.

At the end of every summer, usually sometime around Labor Day, ESPN airs their My Wish Series.  This is a series in which ESPN partners with the Make-A-Wish Foundation with the goal of fulfilling wishes of sick and disabled children. Each year, 5-7 wishes are answered for these brave, wonderful children. Everybody has a different person they want to meet. Whether they be a player, coach, or whole team. Whether they play baseball, basketball, tennis, or drive NASCAR, every athlete is more than happy to help out with this program. Not only is it a wonderful experience for the children, but also for the professional athletes, and all of us who view the series.

This past year, Emmy-award winning reporter Chris Connelly, walked us through the inspiring experiences of 5 brave children. The professional athletes featured on this year’s series include, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Kasey Kahne, Roger Federer, and the Arizona Diamondbacks' organization. The following video follows Lateef Brock as his wish to meet Robert Griffin III comes true.

It is obvious to see how one day with a professional athlete can mean so much to a child with a life-threatening illness. However, it is not as obvious to see how that day can mean so much to the athlete as well. Former and current athletes who have taken place in the program all come to the same conclusion. It is a time for them to realize the importance of giving back, to re-evaluate their lives, relationships, and values. It is a time for them to step back from the fame and witness one of the strongest things in this world – a young child fighting a life-threatening disease.

I look forward to the My Wish series every year because it is a time for the fan base of all sports to evaluate their lives as well. Personally, it is a way for me to realize how blessed I am and how fragile life can be sometimes.  It is unfortunate, but we all take some days for granite and witnessing these children go through what they have to go through is an eye-opener. It is a symbol of strength for everyone to look too because, we all have our problems. The timing of this series could not be better as summer comes to an end and either school, or busy time at work starts up again. I commend ESPN and the Make A Wish foundation for putting this series together over the past years and I encourage all those who have not seen it, to tune in and watch every year.
Michael Proska is a sophomore at Drexel University from Springfield, PA pursuing a Sport Management degree along with a minor in Statistics. Along with being a writer for the SMTSU blog, The Sports Complex, he has worked at Drexel Athletics and for the Philadelphia 76ers. Michael is also a member of the Army ROTC at Drexel University and the Secretary for the SMTSU.  Follow Michael on Twitter @mikeprosk.

 Connect with Michael Proska on LinkedIn. 

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