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Published on April 23, 2015

Mizzou Student-Athletes Create Exciting Experience For Patients at MU Children's Hospital

COLUMBIA, Mo. — It wasn’t just any old painting the patients at MU Children’s Hospital were creating. For this project, there were no paint brushes, no rules, just help from some special visitors — Mizzou student-athletes.

It is all part of the Caleb’s Pitch program, which happens several times each month. Caleb’s Pitch started at MU Children’s Hospital in June 2012. It was founded in Florida by Tim Jacobbe, in memory of his 8-year-old nephew who died from cancer in 2006.

The student-athletes work with the patients on syringe art paintings, and the patients then get to take home their specially created masterpieces.

The MU Athletic Department encourages its student-athletes to take part in community service and has found Caleb’s Pitch is one of the favorite activities.

“It is something they want to do,” said Taylor Phelps, director of community service in the MU student-athlete development office. “The student-athletes will ask their coaches if they can be late to practice just so they can make it to take part in Caleb’s Pitch. You can see the athletes’ faces light up when they see the expression and joys from the patients.”

Much of the syringe painting is done in the hospital’s playroom, but for those that can’t leave their own rooms the student-athletes do whatever is necessary to take the fun to them.

“The room visits are my favorite part – we can bring some of the outside world in,” said Candace Johnson, MU junior soccer player from Dallas, Texas. “It is life-changing, and I love being able to experience life from their perspective. They are so happy and loving life. You can’t stay upset when around these children. They may be excited to see us, but we get so much from these visits as well. Every time I leave here, I take with me a better attitude, better perspective and just an overall sense of joy.”

Many of the pediatric and adolescent patients recognize the athletes even before someone introduces them. The Caleb’s Pitch program gives the young patients more than just a special visit – they get a chance to create a memory and have that piece of art to help them remember the fun.

It brightens the parents’ day, too, to know these athletes care about their child and take an interest in their story and their well-being, said Phelps.

“I couldn’t believe how much fun everyone was having,” said Narcia Overholt of Windsor, Missouri, mother of a patient who took part in Caleb’s Pitch. “It means so much having them here and giving our son the opportunity to do something he would never have done. And they included the entire family making it special for all of us.”

The fun associated with Caleb’s Pitch is quickly spreading back at Mizzou, because many of the student-athletes say they talk about it often with teammates, encouraging others to take part.

Click here to download 'Caleb's Pitch' images (9MB, compressed)