"Oh, cr*&! Two left."
"Come on, get 'em!"
The blue bowling bowl zips down the shiny lane and —
"Yay!" The teenage boy gets the spare.
They trio switches to golf. The fairway is immaculate, the wind minimal, the day perfect. The young boy in the camo top isn’t sure how to drive, though, and takes a few awkward swishes.
"How do I –"
"Just go back and forth," says Columbia College student Phil Todd, a communications major finishing a class with Amy Darnell, assistant professor of speech communication. "Just like a regular golf club."
The kid keeps practicing; it’s doubtful he's ever hit anything down a fairway.
"Yeah, like that."
"Come on, hole in one!" says the pretty teenage girl with the unusual hairstyle.
The boy swings and —
– as the ball sails past the hole. At least it's still on the green.
A sports center? Try a rec room on the sixth floor of Children's Hospital, where Todd and classmates Alex Pfeifer, Crystal Haidsiak and Jami Cade, wearing bright Wii Can Help Ts, have just delivered to sick and convalescent children a joyous litter of Nintendo Wii consoles and games.
Todd, who is also producer of local radio station 93.9 FM The Eagle's morning show, says he got the idea of helping sick kids during a 2008 radiothon for Children's Miracle Network at a live broadcast from the hospital. A young patient went on the air to remark wistfully it would be nice to have a Nintendo Wii, something to get the kids out of bed or chair and moving. Todd says the idea lay dormant until Darnell's Understanding Human Communication class, when she challenged her students to implement their new communications skills for community betterment.
Todd persuaded morning DJ Tom Bradley to publicize the Wii campaign on his show, had fliers printed and posted all over town and on the Columbia College campus. If 10 people in an office donated 10 bucks each, the B & B Bagel Company on East Nifong would donate a bag of bagels, with cream cheese of course, to that office.
The resulting outpouring netted the Wii Can Help project an incredible $2,000, enough for:
- 3 Wii consoles
- 3 charging docks
- 9 nunchucks (if you don't know what a nunchuck is, ask your kid)
- 12 controllers
- 27 games.
None of these three patients has cystic fibrosis, but there's no question playing has lifted their spirits.
Amanda, who has no hair and one leg, suffers from a far too common but unusually malignant form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma. Daniel suffers from spina bifida, a birth defect resulting in an incompletely formed spinal column and, in Daniel's case, a dangerous accumulation of spinal fluid in the brain's cavities called hydrocephalia. This fluid has to be drained or the brain's soft tissue will be squeezed against the skull with very dire consequences. Today, Daniel has a shunt in his skull to drain the fluid. It doesn’t seem to get in the way of his playing at all.
Daniel's mother, Columbia College graduate Laura Anderson '05, '08, who hold a master's degree in education, is upbeat and smiling in a very pink Columbia College T-shirt as she watches her son thrash a hapless golf ball.
"We have had to visit the hospital four times this school year alone" to drain the fluid, she says. "Sometimes I feel like I live here!" She says she and her husband alternate half-days at the hospital; the Jefferson City, Mo., high school at which she teaches has permitted her a part-time schedule. She says she is hopeful that this last draining might be the end of it, and Daniel can return to a normal teen's life.
"Sure I worry about him," she says. "But he is really focused on what he wants to do," which, she says, probably speeds his recovery. "He wants to become a college or high school band director. He got into marching band in the ninth grade, which is very hard to do." She says his determination overrode his condition and school absences.
Not that Daniel notices the conversation. He's far too busy trying to whack the ball.
"I'm just thrilled we could do this," says Todd. "It's amazing how far this project went, and it would be a shame to have it die. I would really like to keep it going, maybe expand it regionally. I'd like to do this for every hospital in mid-Missouri.
"All it took was a couple of kids getting together to make this happen."