There were two Detroit Red Wings admitted into Sparrow Hospital today, but they weren't there for their own treatment. They were there to be part of someone else's cure.
Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader are very familiar with the halls of the Children's Center at Sparrow Hospital. After all, they were regulars there during their time in school.
In 2005, Miller started the Spartan Buddies program back when he was wearing green and white. Under the program, Spartan athletes are trained to visit the Children's Center and spend time with patients there.
"We started thinking 4 or 5 guys would train," said Miller. "It's grown to where almost every single team at Michigan State is represented."
Abdelkader took Miller's lead and in early 2008 started Shoot for a Cure, a fundraiser for the Sparrow Foundation. Thursday morning, his efforts paid off when he and Miller presented a check for $22,295.00 to the Joy Wiseman of Sparrow Hospital.
"It's tough just seeing what these kids have to go through," said Abdelkader. "It's so tough because they just want to be out on the playground with their friends."
The two were back in old form, visiting patients room to room and signing autographs in the playroom. They also gave out signed Red Wings pennants to every patient they saw.
"To visit with that Red Wings jersey and bring a smile to their faces," said Miller. "That's what it's all about."
"The kids love it when the athletes come in," said Wiseman. "It breaks up their day and it gives them something to look forward to."
The Spartan Buddies program continues to this day at Michigan State. AJ Sturges has been a participant for four years.
"It's really been one of the most gratifying things I've done in my time at Michigan State," said Sturges, a redshirt junior on the hockey team. "You may not think you have a lot of time to give, but these kids really appreciate it. They appreciate it so much and it's a great feeling."
"Just seeing the joy in their eyes when you walk in the room is the best thing," said Drew Palmisano, a junior on the hockey team.
If you'd like information on donating to or volunteering your time for the Sparrow Foundation, the number to call is (517) 364-5680.