EMU football team helps out at veterans hospital

Members of Eastern Michigan University’s football team and coaching staff visited veteran patients at the Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Medical Center in recognition of “National Salute to Veterans Week.”

EMU tight end coach Tom Burpee said it was a very memorable experience for the players.

“I think they realize that they wouldn’t be able to play football or live with the other freedoms that we enjoy if the veterans didn’t sacrifice and serve,” he said. “It puts things into perspective for them.”

A group of players and coaches visited the community living center, where some veterans reside as inpatients. It is comparable to a nursing home that can provide short and long-term care, and many veterans spend their final days there.

Juwan Lewis, a running back for the Eagles, said his visit to the CLC stirred emotions about his grandmother who passed away last summer. He said he was grateful for the opportunity to positively affect some of America’s war fighters.

“It was good to give back to the vets,” he said. “Not very many people get the chance to make a veteran’s day. When we graduate from Eastern, we can say we made their day by just visiting with them for a while. It’s a great feeling.”

Angela Morris is an employee and volunteer at the community living center. She said the team had an extremely positive effect on morale when they made their appearance.

“Visitations are so important,” she said.

Running back coach Mike Hart also visited the CLC.

“This was a great chance for our guys to go out and do something that matters,” he said.

The VA hospital has around 2,000 employees and over 2,500 volunteers.

Nicole Vogelsberg is a registered nurse at the VA hospital. She said the football players received a very warm reception.

“My patients absolutely loved it,” she said. “They had a really good time, and it seemed the football players had a good time also.”

Emmy Toohey is also a registered nurse at the VA hospital and echoed the sentiment.

“It helps the patients think about something else besides their pain or illness,” she said. “It’s a good distraction.”

Danny Davis is an inpatient at the hospital and a veteran of Vietnam. His son graduated from EMU, and he said it was a great experience visiting with the football team.

“I met the quarterback and a couple linemen,” he said. “They were joking around and telling me some jokes. It was good to see some outstanding young men.”

His fiancé, Sandy Pariseau, said the visit made him perky.

“It cheered him up a lot, he really did enjoy it,” she said.

This was the second year in a row the Eagles football team participated in “Salute to Veterans Week.”

Miss Michigan 2012 Angela Venditti also visited the Ann Arbor VA for her second time Friday. She said there are veterans in her family who made the experience more personal.

“It was an honor to get the chance to brighten their day,” she said. “I always take something special away from my visits with the vets.”

Venditti was scheduled to visit the VA hospital in Detroit on Saturday as well.

Nancy Valentini has a Navy-veteran husband who was receiving inpatient care Friday. He was getting a picture taken with Miss Michigan when asked who had been his favorite visitor so far.
She laughed and said, “Oh, those football players never had a chance.”

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