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Bob Stoops' quiet mission: Visiting patients at Children's Hospital

BERRY TRAMEL: The OU coach has befriended numerous children, like Stevy Cellum, during his Thursday trips.
by Berry Tramel Published: October 18, 2011
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“I feel it's necessary,” Stoops said. “It lets 'em know they're important. If I'm able to give a little peace and give a little joy ... I've been lucky to have a lot of great relationships with my time up there.”

Like Stevy Cellum. Diagnosed on Feb. 20, 2009, she spent much of the rest of her 2½ years in a hospital.

She was in The Children's Center in Bethany for 156 days straight. Underwent 17 rounds of chemo, plus 15 hospital admissions with fever. That's thirtysomething hospital stays, three to 10 days at a time. In 2011 alone, Stevy was hospitalized eight times before she was sent home in June, told that there was nothing more medicine could do.

Thursdays at Children's Hospital, Stevy would be noticeably different. “The other six days, she might not have any energy,” said her mom, Gayla Cellum. “But Thursday mornings, she'd be ready.”

And it was darndest thing. If Stevy was asleep on Thursday when Stoops came in, “she could hear his voice, and automatically she'd be awake,” Gayla said.

Stoops and Stevy made a connection. He invited her to the 2009 and 2010 team banquets. She was able to attend and struck up friendships with Sooners Winchester, Landry Jones, Travis Lewis and Ben Sherrard.

“She was a special one,” Stoops said.

Stoops asked the Cellums to keep him updated on Stevy's condition. When the doctors delivered the news in June, Stevy took it bravely. During a visit with Stoops, she asked him to speak at her funeral, which will be Thursday in Tishomingo.

He said he would do what he could. Stoops won't make it, though. He's a football coach, remember, and this is game week.

Gayla Cellum understands.

“He's a very busy man,” she said. “That he would take time out to visit the hospital and know those kids. I have the utmost respect for him. There's no way to explain that feeling. Appreciation and respect are the things I would say about him.

“He'll never know. She loved him … she felt close to him.”

Stoops would like to accommodate Stevy's request. But he has a football team to coach and, being a Thursday, some people to see.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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