Tigers give back, spend time with kids battling life-threatening illnesses

by - Senior Writer -
Clemson QB David Olson gets a hug from 3-year old Matthew.

Kissimmee, FL – Friday morning was all about the kids.

Clemson and Oklahoma’s football players and both head coaches made the trek from their team hotels early Friday to Give Kids the World Village, a 70-acre resort complete with over 144 Villa accommodations, entertainment attractions, whimsical venues, and fun specifically designed for children with special needs. The resort provides memorable, magical, cost-free experiences to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

The purpose of the resort is for those kids – and their families – to spend one week just being with each other and making memories. For one such youngster, 3-year old Matthew, the visit quickly turned back into a game of football as he spent the better part of half an hour playing catch with Clemson’s players, head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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and his wife Kathleen.

Matthew, who lives in Illinois, was born with a brain tumor and had his first surgery at just four days old. He will soon be fitted with leg braces and a chest brace, and his father told TigerNet that Matthew is “full speed ahead all day long.”

Matthew’s smile was evident each time he threw the football, and quarterback David Olson was even lucky enough to get a hug and a kiss and a fist bump.

Senior defensive tackle Grady JarrettGrady Jarrett
Sr. Defensive Tackle
#50 6-1, 290
Conyers, GA

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said seeing the kids made the visit worthwhile.

“We’re coming out here to give back to the kids and have a wonderful time with them. I hope that I get to learn something new from a couple of the kids and their families,” Jarrett told TigerNet. “This is real life right here. We’re here to try to make someone smile and that’s what we’re going to do.”

As he watched his teammates dance with children with serious life-threatening conditions, Jarrett said the visit was an honor.

“It’s an honor. Every guy on the team has someone in their life or their family that is going through something that these kids are going through and we just want to try to make the situation easier for them,” Jarrett said. “We want to put a smile on their face and a smile on their family’s faces. It’s really an honor for us to come out here and spend time with the kids. They have no idea that they do just as much for us as we do for them.”

Clemson and Oklahoma players rode trains and merry-go-rounds and played games with the children and their families, and TigerNet was on hand to provide some photos and videos.

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