With Mack and Sally Brown back home, UNC Football and UNC Children’s are partnering up
Because being a team player means more than assists on the court or blocks on the field. It means taking care of those around you.
Mack and Sally have a long history of this kind of teamwork, supporting children with health challenges. Now, UNC Children’s is their local charity of focus, and that’s a big win for the children of North Carolina and beyond.
You can see this commitment in action in our Kid Champions program.
UNC Kid Champions are current or former patients at UNC Children’s who have been nominated by their health care teams. These kids have been challenged with a wide variety of health issues—health issues they didn’t ask for and certainly didn’t deserve.
At each home game this football season, a UNC Kid Champion, their family, and the health care team who nominated the child will join us at our UNC Children’s Tailgate to enjoy a family friendly game-day experience.
Not only will the Kid Champion get to attend the UNC home football game, they will each receive and awesome package including tickets and a t-shirt.
The On-Field Experience
Before each game, just when the anticipation in Kenan Stadium is reaching its peak, the Kid Champion will be escorted out to the 50-yard line. You’ll be able to see them walking alongside the UNC team captains.
The Kid Champion will attend the coin toss. All of this will be displayed for you and the rest of the stadium on the Jumbotron, and, during this time, the Kid Champion’s name and hometown will be announced to the crowd. She or he will then be recognized as a UNC Kid Champion.
Meet the UNC Health Care Kid Champions
Kid Champion #6
Jake Hanley of Apex, NC, was playing basketball one day, when he hurt his knee. He was 14. A lover of sports, especially lacrosse, Jake had taken some bruises before. But there was something unusual about the pain that followed. His parents were suspicious. Within a week they found out it was cancer in his femur.
Not even in high school yet, Jake was told he would have to have his knee and part of his femur replaced. Without delay, they scheduled the surgery.
After the knee replacement, high hopes for a smooth recovery were upset when pain returned. It turned out that there was an infection. The last thing you’d ever want to hear: Jake was going to have to have yet another knee replacement.
It was a long recovery, but Jake, now in tenth grade, is cancer free. We are proud to have him as our last Kid Champion of the season.
Support Kid Champions like Jake by making a gift to UNC Children’s.
Kid Champion #5
On August 9, 2018, early in the morning, 8-year-old Asael was complaining loudly in his bedroom. His parents came into his room. It was still dark out. According to his mom, his eyes were turned to the side, and his face was turned to the side. He couldn’t open his eyes. His dad thought maybe he was dreaming. They woke him up. They asked him what was going on. He was just moaning. His dad tried to get him up, but Asael was too weak to stand. They got to the hospital as soon as they could.
They brought Asael to the ICU, where they confirmed his parents’ worst fear, that young Asael had suffered a stroke. He was in the hospital for a month.
After he was release, everything seemed OK again. They thought it was all over. But then, after a follow up visit, they were told that Asael’s heart was weak. They went home with some medication, and he was fine for two weeks: Riding his bike, playing soccer, being back to his normal self. Then he starting having pain in his legs and his hands. He started vomiting. He started having bad stomach aches. A cardiologist in Greensboro told him his heart was getting weaker and weaker. He started losing weight. He couldn’t keep anything down. They finally came to UNC Children’s, where they were admitted and told that Asael needed a new heart. He was going to have to wait at the hospital for one.
They didn’t know if it would take months or years, if a matching heart ever even would arrive. They waited seven months. Then it came. He had a transplant on June 3, 2019.
Asael is a fighter who never gave up. He was sure that he would get a heart and that he would get to go home. During the 290 hospital stay, he received gift after gift, toy after toy. But he wouldn’t open any of them. He wanted to wait to open them until he got home. Wrapped presents sat in his hospital room for almost 300 days.
Support Kid Champions like Asael by making a gift to UNC Children’s.
Kid Champion #4
Wyatt is eight years old and lives in Hillsborough, NC, with his mom, dad, and little brother. This third grader loves all sports and plays on a travel baseball team. He loves to throw the football, play basketball, go fishing, and swimming, the beach, and, of course, all things TAR HEELS!
Wyatt was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was five years old.
The diagnosis turned his and his family’s world upside down, according to his mom. But he has never let type 1 diabetes slow him down. Wyatt is the type of kid who rolls with the punches, takes the hard days with the good days, and never lets diabetes keep him down.
“He’s a hero and an inspiration, a blessing, and will do great things!” his mom says. Wyatt wants to be a professional baseball player and a police officer when he grows up.
Support Kid Champions like Wyatt by making a gift to UNC Children’s.
Kid Champion #3
Sophia is a 12-year-old 7th grader who loves soccer, running, basketball, laughing, and is a proud patient of UNC Children’s Hospital. Although she’s quick to smile and does so often, Sophia has come through some pretty big challenges in her life. She lost her Dad in Afghanistan when she was just four months old.
To make things more difficult, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 10.
At UNC Children’s Hospital, Sophia and her mom met Dr. Sylvester, who walked them through the different treatment options and pleasantly answered question after question after question.
Sophia and her mom are glad to be working with Dr. Sylvester and his amazing team, who have helped Sophia’s Crohn’s disease go into remission. It has been two years! Sophia and her mom hope to keep this progressive disease permanently asleep.
Her doctor, nurses, and the hospital itself have not only made Sophia want to attend UNC but have also made her want to be a pediatric gastroenterologist.
Support Kid Champions like Sophia by making a gift to UNC Children’s.
Kid Champion #2
Albert “Al-J” Jeffries
Albert “Al-J” Jeffries is an 11th grader at Cummings High School in Burlington, NC, who, like many teenagers, loves to play video games and hopes to one day become a video game designer. He loves Japanese food (and his mother’s home cooking, of course). Al-J likes the smooth vibes of Lo-Fi Hip-Hop, traveling, and all things UNC sports.
However, unlike most teens, Al-J has been living with a transplanted heart for the past three years.
Al-J was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) when he was four months old. DCM is a condition in which the heart’s ability to pump blood is decreased because the heart’s main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, is enlarged and weakened. It can be life-threatening–a common cause of heart failure–and it can contribute to sudden death.
For 13 years Al-J waited for a heart before finally receiving one. Because of his condition and life-saving transplant, according to his mom, “he has spent all of his life at UNC Children’s Hospital.”
Al-J continues to see the pediatric cardiology team. Dr Hoffman, his primary cardiologist, thinks that Al-J’s future looks great with his new transplanted heart. However, for the rest of his life Al-J will have to see a cardiologist, take anti-rejection medicine, and get yearly heart biopsies, which are invasive. According to his mom, “UNC Children’s Hospital and staff is our family.”
Support Kid Champions like Al-J by making a gift to UNC Children’s.
Kid Champion #1
Taylon is a 12-year-old kid who loves basketball, football and video games. His favorite UNC football players are Antonio Williams, Chazz Surratt, Dyami Brown and Michael Carter. According to his grandma, he likes to eat anything that swims in the ocean: shrimp, oysters, calamari, and lobster. He’s like any other 7th grader in almost all regards.
However, Taylon’s life has been altered by cystic fibrosis (CF).
CF is a disease that affects your entire body but primarily the lungs. CF causes the accumulation of very thick mucus in the lungs, leading to lots of infections. Difficulty gaining weight and diabetes are just two of many possible complications due to CF.
Because of this disease, Taylon has to spend a lot of his life hospitalized. Most patients with CF get admitted to the hospital about once a year on average because of infections or other complications, but Taylon gets admitted just about every other month. He doesn’t show it much, but he’s a very sick kid. Even when he’s not at the hospital, he has to do airway clearance with a vest four times per day. He has to have an IV port, which has gotten infected multiple times. It’s tough to keep up with his friends when he’s home and playing. Basically, never feeling like a normal kid, Taylon has had a rough go of it.
But even with all of these challenges, he’s a very positive, intelligent kid who shows incredible resilience.
Support Kid Champions like Taylon by making a gift to UNC Children’s.
How You Can Help
Support patients like our Kid Champions as they give hope and healing to the thousands of young patients we treat each year at UNC Children’s. Make your gift today in honor of our Kid Champions and UNC Football!DONATE NOW
Follow @uncchildrens on social media to see what the Kid Champions do this year!