Players unload beams

Players unload playground equipment in New Orleans

Photo courtesy of: Ohio University Athletics Media Relations

Players visit kid

Players visit child in New Orleans Children's Hospital

Photo courtesy of: Ohio University Athletics Media Relations

Players unload truck

Players unloading playground equipment at St. James playground site

Photo courtesy of: Ohio University Athletics Media Relations

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Footballers reach out to New Orleans community

Players help build playground and visit children's hospital

Members of the Ohio University football team took part in a pair of community outreach events in the greater New Orleans area on Thursday as they prepare for Saturday's R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl* (9 p.m. ET).

At 8 a.m., several players helped unload a truckload of playground equipment and building materials that will be used Saturday morning to build a neighborhood playground at the St. James Playspot in Gentilly. Several Ohio University students and alumni traveling to the game will help build the playground as part of the one-day construction project under the direction of the KaBoom! organization.               

"The whole team wanted to get out and help the community," said freshman linebacker Joe Stefanski. "We have all this time down here and it's appropriate for us to give back a little bit. It was great because we were able to relate to it. We were talking about what our favorite thing to do was when we were younger and on the playground ourselves."                                                                      
After Thursday's practice, about a dozen Bobcat upperclassmen visited the New Orleans Children's Hospital. The players met with several of the ailing children, bringing smiles and well wishes to each patient. They also gave signed miniature footballs and Rufus the Bobcat wristbands to the children.
"It was very emotional," said junior defensive lineman Jeff King. "Yet, it is also very touching to see all the kids in such high spirits even though they're going through some tough times in their lives. It was just a really good experience to meet people that are going through so much turmoil, but can still put on a smile. It's a hard thing to watch, but it's something great for all of us to experience."
King said the hospital experience reminded him of what's important during the holiday season.

"As we go through New Orleans, we're going to have some fun and hopefully get this win and bring it back to Athens," King said. "However, it's also important to remember, especially around the holidays, that there are people who are not able to do what we're fortunate enough to be doing. It's important for us to remember that in the midst of all the joy that we get to partake in."