NORMAN — Every Saturday, 7-year-old Fletcher Burns wears a Boomer Sooner shirt.
He's an Oklahoma Sooner fan because his father is one.
Before Fletcher slips his shirt on before Saturday's Notre Dame — Oklahoma game, he'll listen to the fight song of the Fighting Irish when Notre Dame's band comes to visit him and his friends.
The Irish are coming, and not just to Norman.
When No. 5 Notre Dame plays No. 8 Oklahoma this weekend, there will be several special events besides the football game. There is an Irish band practice at Noble High School, a pep rally at the Myriad Gardens in Oklahoma City, a tailgate party at Lloyd Noble Center and a trip by the entire band to The Children's Center in Bethany.
Fletcher has been a patient at The Children's Center since he was 1. Born with epidermal nevus syndrome as well as heart and lung disease, Fletcher needs constant care that helps him learn how to walk and talk.
But his mother doesn't need him to say it to know that he loves music.
“He loves his guitar,” Denise Burns said. “He always wants us to play it for him.”
On Friday, Denise thinks that Fletcher will be enthralled with the Notre Dame percussion section. Although he's only seen one marching band perform at a high school, she said she could see him loving the drums.
But why is Notre Dame's band making a trip to a hospital that is full of little Boomers and Sooners? They love to help out a community, whether it's with their instruments or their hands.
Larry Dwyer, assistant director of bands for the Fighting Irish, said that the band members enjoy giving their service.
“Often, the band students — on their fall break and spring break — will organize their own service activities where they'll go to a city where there's tornado damage and clean up,” Dwyer said.
The band even went to help in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.
Primarily, the band travels to the football team's games that are within three hours or so of Notre Dame — to Big Ten schools like Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State. There they play for Notre Dame alumni groups like they will this weekend at Lloyd Noble Center, so the trip to The Children's Center is a special treat.
The Notre Dame band will play a portion of the music from their halftime show.
“Some of them are going to walk along with us,” Dwyer said. “We'll push them in wheelchairs and then we will also stop and play them a concert of the Notre Dame pep songs.”
As the Irish do their parade through the halls, Fletcher will be there marching with them in his stroller, as part of the Fighting Irish marching guard.
OU-Notre Dame schedule of events
OUTDOOR PEP RALLY
8 p.m. at Myriad Gardens Great Lawn
The Notre Dame Club of Oklahoma City won't let Irish fans go without their Friday night pep rally. Jason Beckstrom, a native Oklahoman and a member of the 1999 Irish team (the last Irish squad to play Oklahoma) will be one of the speakers. The Notre Dame Marching Band will also perform. The event is free and open to the public.
Saturday, Oct. 27:
GAME DAY MASS
Noon at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Norman
The church is located at 3939 W. Tecumseh Road.
IRISH MARCHING BAND PRACTICE
1:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Noble High School
The high school is located at 4601 E. Etowah Road in Noble. The practice is free and open to the public.
2 P.M. at Lloyd Noble Center on OU's campus
Located about one mile south of the football stadium, the Notre Dame Club of Oklahoma City is offering a tailgate party that starts four hours before kickoff with all-you-can-eat concessions for $40 per person. The tailgate party will also include beer, games, musical entertainment and large-screen televisions. The screens will remain up during the game for anyone who doesn't have a ticket that wants to watch the game.
For more information on these events, contact Mike Milligan at (405) 525-8331, ext. 1. Further details are available online at mynotredame.nd.edu/oklahoma