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Pat Harty: Remember all the good star athletes can do

[ 0 ] April 6, 2014 |

We live in a world that is flawed.

We hate.

We discriminate.

We ignore, ridicule and lash out, sometimes in sinister ways.

And we hear about it all the time in the news under the subjects of crime, civil unrest and military conflict.

But even with all of our dysfunction as a human race, the good still far outweighs the bad. Most of us strive to live peacefully in a civilized society, to be loved and to help and respect others.

Thank goodness for that.

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And thank goodness for people like NBA star point guard Chris Paul. The extent to which he has reached out to help 14-year old Patrick McCaffery truly is uplifting.

Paul isn’t just Patrick’s favorite NBA player anymore. He’s a friend and a source of inspiration to the second oldest child of Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery.

It’s usually silly to refer to a sports star as a hero, but not in this case.

Paul, who plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, has earned that distinction by caring for a kid who’s been dealt a tough blow. Paul has used his power and influence as a professional athlete to help create a fun distraction for Patrick, who recently was diagnosed with a malignant tumor on his thyroid.

I almost was brought to tears while reading the story on Clippers.com about the McCaffery family being guests of Paul for a recent Clippers’ game in Minneapolis. I didn’t have a favorite NBA player before reading the story, but I do now.

I also have a huge amount of respect for former Wake Forest men’s basketball coach Dino Gaudio because he reportedly was instrumental in getting Paul, who played at Wake Forest, to reach out to Patrick McCaffery.

Former Michigan State forward Adreian Payne is part of another story that tugs at your heart and shows the impact star athletes can have.

His relationship with 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth, who is battling a rare form of nerve cancer, has captivated Spartan Nation and beyond. Lacey accompanied Payne during his Senior Day festivities last month as if she were his precious little sister.

“It can’t be all about you,” Payne told The Detroit Free-Press. “I think that’s one thing I’ve learned now that I probably didn’t know as a freshman … It’s more important to have a role in other peoples’ lives that you care for.”

Payne couldn’t have said it better.

He knows as a prominent sports figure that he is in a position to help and is more than willing to do it.

He met Lacey two years ago while visiting a local children’s hospital. They bonded immediately and have stayed close ever since.

These kinds of stories aren’t new. Star athletes have a history of reaching out to those dealing with adversity, especially children. They might only play a sport, but to a kid, there are few things bigger than that.

So much goes into the power of healing, including something as simple as a star athlete reaching out to a child in need.

We mostly hear only about University of Iowa student-athletes excelling on the playing field, but their influence goes beyond that.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard stories about UI student-athletes visiting children in the hospital and how uplifting the visits proved to be. Reaching out to those less fortunate is part of the responsibility of being a Hawkeye and they take it seriously, as do student-athletes at other colleges.

College athletes often get a bad rap because it’s considered news whenever one of them runs afoul of the law, magnified even more if it’s a football player or men’s basketball player.

College coaches also get portrayed as being influenced mostly by money and greed. And although that might be true in some cases, I’d like to think that most of them are influenced by trying to help others reach their goals.

Fran McCaffery lost both of his parents to cancer, and now uses his notariety to help with cancer awareness and fundraising. McCaffery and his wife, Margaret, host an annual Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser in October in Iowa City.

I’ve mentioned numerous times in stories and columns that Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz is paid handsomely, but rarely do I mention his charitable side.

It was announced in November that Ferentz would contribute $500,000 to the Iowa Football Legacy Campaign, which is financing new football facilities.

Ferentz and his wife, Mary, have given generously of their time and resources, with much of their focus on pediatric medicine and undergraduate education.

In 2006, Kirk and Mary contributed $250,000 to establish the Ferentz Family Pediatric Research and Education Fund to support research and education initiatives at University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, and $150,000 to establish the John and Elsie Mae Ferentz Undergraduate Fellowships for Research in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Kirk Ferentz is a fine football coach, but he’s an even better person because he’s made it clear, as has Fran McCaffery, that their mission in life is to help others less fortunate.

It pleases me to know that Chris Paul and Adreian Payne are on that same mission.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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