The Children's Center is a nonprofit pediatric hospital for children with complex medical and physical disabilities. Though Medicaid reimbursements cover much of the center's operating costs, they depend on donations to purchase all of the equipment and other necessities for therapy and medical care, all the way down to clothes and school supplies.
For instance, The Children's Center spends roughly $5,000 a week on baby formula and nearly twice that on diapers.
The center has other fundraisers throughout the year, such as the Holiday Baby Basics gift drive, and last month's Spin Your Wheels noncompetitive bicycle tour, which raised more than $64,000.
Bethany's football booster club approached The Children's Center about the idea in the summer of 2010, and it quickly took off. Now, the Bronchos hope to make it an annual fundraising event.
“We have a good booster club, and our kids benefit from new uniforms and an indoor practice facility and a lot of things that kids at other 3A teams don't get to see,” booster club president Tim Hooper said. “So we came up with the idea of having something sort of like a bowl game and raising money that wasn't for us.”
In the inaugural Children's Center Bowl last year, Bethany and Kingfisher raised almost $7,200. The goal for this week's fundraising efforts was $10,000, and they'll find out at halftime of the football game if the schools reached that mark.
But the value of the experience is about more than money.
“We have a ton of respect for those kids and what they're going through,” Bethany's Collin Coffee said. “They have such a great attitude. Some of them go to school at Bethany, so we get to see them around occasionally. Seeing the look in their eyes when we hang out with them is awesome.
“We feel very fortunate to be able to help them out. It really hits home when you realize how expensive it is for all that treatment and everything they need throughout the year.”
The motives of The Children's Center hit close to home for Washington coach Brad Beller as well.
“When my grandfather was 9 years old, he had to go to The Children's Center,” Beller said. “He probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them. He personally donates money to them every year, and he's really excited that we're a part of this.”
Beller toured The Children's Center in the summer and can't wait for his players to experience it.
“It's amazing how good those kids' attitudes were,” Beller said. “They have really tough lives, but they don't get down, and I think that's great for our kids to see — that you just have to stay after it and keep fighting.”
Words like that only go to prove how valuable an event like The Children's Center Bowl can be — for everyone involved.
“Chris doesn't speak, but uses his eyes to communicate, and his smile says everything,” Regina said. “He was so excited to be a part of this, and interact with the kids and watch the game.
“When you first find out your son has these problems, you're hurt, because you know he won't be able to enjoy the things you enjoyed growing up. This provided an opportunity for Chris to be a part of something I always dreamed he'd be a part of.
“It touches my heart.”