University of Cincinnati's Luke Fickell leads area football players to Mercy Hospital

    Cincinnati's Luke Fickell visits a patient, Laila Rivers, during the trip to Mercy Children's Hospital (WNWO).

    The University of Cincinnati is about 200 miles away from Mercy Children's Hospital in Toledo, but that didn't stop Head Bearcat Football Coach Luke Fickell from dropping by and making some young patients smile.

    Last year, University of Toledo Head Coach Jason Candle took a few dozen local scholar high school football players on a tour of the children's hospital. In the past, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald and Michigan's John Harbaugh have also made the trip to Toledo.

    "Well, hopefully they see we make time for the things that are important to us. Whether it's me driving just a few hours to be up here to say thank you, and show them what this is really about. Not just the immediate things and the convenient things, but the things that last and the things that really matte," said Fickell.

    The visit was put on by the National Football Foundation's Toledo Branch. The organization honors area football players with the trip to Mercy Hospital and a banquet in their honor.

    "It's a great opportunity to show that everything I worked for is finally paying off," said Central Catholic's Alfred Dailey.

    Coach Fickell and the players took the time to meet with a few patients during their stop, and even signed some footballs for them to keep.

    The players split into separate groups and visited different areas of the hospital.

    Laila Rivers, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy for her leukemia, welcomed Coach Fickell and some athletes into her room.

    Her mother believes it truly helps her recovery.

    "Any little visit from somebody, just to let them know they care, it really raises her," explained Jennifer St. John.

    Corey Miller is now the Manager of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

    The day was memorable to him because he was actually a participant as a 2001 graduate from Whitmer.

    He said it went full-circle.

    "The director of the hospital, Donna, made the comment that one of the patients, she hasn't seen her smile in such a long time and it's just very refreshing to have something in this nature at the hospital."

    All 40 players involved were chosen by their GPA, league award status and community involvement.

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