Nov. 22, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
The South Carolina equestrian team got into the spirit of Thanksgiving on Sunday at their competition and training facility by spending some time with youngsters and families who have been affected by childhood cancer. Sunday was Curing Kids Cancer Day at One Wood Farm, and the Gamecocks spent the afternoon playing games with children and siblings who currently have or have had cancer.
“I just think it’s really good for us as a team to give back to people who are in unfortunate situations,” said junior Paige Stopperich. “The kids seem to bond with the horses. The look on the kids’ faces when they’re riding or petting the horses is great. They’re just so happy. It makes you feel grateful for what you have and makes you thankful that you can brighten up their day.”
“It’s nice to see the kids just having fun and not worrying about other things that are going on with them,” senior Sydney Smith added. “They’re so happy, and they’re so energetic.”
Curing Kids Cancer was founded in 2005 by Grainne and Clay Owen, a South Carolina alumnus, one year after the devastating loss of their nine-year-old son, Killian, to leukemia. The goal is to fund research to find a cure for childhood cancer. Since then, Curing Kids Cancer has raised more than $8 million for pediatric cancer research and treatment. The Gamecocks have found inspiration from the Owen family’s work.
“I just thought it was really amazing to hear how she took her story of losing her son and turned it around to make it into something positive, where she could help others,” senior Courtney Allen said. “What we are doing is such a small thing, but it’s great to think that the little bit that we do can help out these families and the organization.”
“I know that every time she tells the story about her son, she gets really emotional, and I still get chills from her telling us about it,” Smith said. “It’s a very small organization, but they’re able to make such a huge difference.”
There is so much joy on that day, it makes you forget that some of them do have cancer. They can just be kids."
The children learned how to groom and feed the horses, played games, and enjoyed some horseshoe decorating. Horses can be intimidating to some, and sometimes the Gamecocks have to offer a little encouragement, but many of the children have taken part in the event before and are very comfortable.
“Some of them have been there so long, they just hop on the horse,” Stopperich said. “They know what they’re doing.”
“They told us how some of the kids grow each time they come and get more comfortable with the horses,” Allen said. “That’s just cool to see."
The Gamecocks hold the event twice per year, and it never gets old.
“It’s just something that our team looks forward to doing,” Allen said.
“There were a few of us that would stay with one kid the whole time, so we really had a chance to get to know them,” Smith said.
“It can be a little sad, but there is so much joy on that day, it makes you forget that some of them do have cancer,” Stopperich said. “They can just be kids.”
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