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UA cheerleaders and mascots visit children at UMC

Headline Photo

Physiology junior Jessica Walker, left, laughs at a joke while 12-year-old Jairess Hearn paints her nails yesterday at the Steele Memorial Children's Research Center in the University Medical Center. Hearn, who is currently awaiting a bone marrow transplant, offered to paint festive Halloween ghosts on Walker's nails for a small charge.

By Tyler Wager

Wednesday October 3, 2001

Children created banner in support of workers in N.Y.

Children at UMC who are too often isolated from the outside world enjoyed a visit from UA cheerleaders and mascots yesterday and a chance to make happiness and friendship come out of their otherwise difficult situations.

"He really opened up to me," said Jessie Zuckerman, an education freshman and UA cheerleader, after emerging from a long conversation with Christian Creange, a young patient at UMC. "I was expecting to talk to the kids - if they have any problems, we want to be here for them."

The UA cheerleaders and mascots spent time playing with children in the Steele Memorial Children's Research Center at UMC yesterday. They also worked with the kids to create a banner that will be sent to New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to offer support after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

"We've done things like this in the past, so when University Medical Center asked if we would be interested in coming here to visit the kids, we thought it would be a great opportunity," said Naomi Damsky, a UA assistant cheer coach. "We have 20 cheerleaders here and Wilma and Wilbur."

The cheerleaders spent time with the kids playing, mingling and drawing pictures, Damsky said.

When asked why the squad chose to participate, Kristen Ortega, a physiological sciences sophomore, explained, "We just wanted to get involved in the community with the kids at UMC. We felt that it would raise their spirits."

In addition to promoting the spirit and enthusiasm of the kids, the cheerleaders got to know some of the patients on a personal level.

For Creange, the visit from the cheerleaders and mascots was an unexpected pleasure.

"I was surprised because I never thought the UA would come here. It was nice," he said.

Andrew Werchan, another youth who participated in activities with the cheerleaders, said he felt it was a positive experience for the patients at UMC who were visited.

"We met (the cheerleaders) and played air hockey. It was fun because it was cheerful and it's especially good for the kids who can't go out of their rooms," Werchan said.

The children drew pictures and worked on a colorful banner in support of the many firefighters, police, rescue workers and others who responded to the attacks in New York.

Maria Santamaria worked diligently on a card with a large heart on the front, clutching a crayon in one tiny hand.

"We're making pictures for the people in New York to make them feel better," Santamaria said.

The events of Sept. 11 motivated the cheerleaders even further in their project with the children at UMC.

"What happened in New York makes you want to get involved with people in need," said Tenlee Pignotti, a musical theater freshman. "And when you come in here and get involved, you feel really good and want to come by often to raise the kids spirits."

One observer said he felt that the cheerleaders were successful in their task.

"It's good to get the kids with other people and break the monotony of hospital life," said Dennis Stoutsenberger, grandfather of a UMC patient. "When these kids are enclosed for so long, it's great for them to have visitors."


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