By Jill Fox
Former NFL players and Super Bowl cheerleaders are taking some time away from the big game to bring gifts to children in need of some cheer.
They will be delivering over 100 “Super Baskets of Hope” to pediatric patients and their families at Broward Health Coral Springs’ Salah Foundation Children’s Hospital.
NFL cheerleaders and Coral Springs Police, along with an array of volunteers gathered on Tuesday at Parkland Golf & Country Club to assemble baskets filled with toys, games, crafts, educational items and more.
They put together separate baskets for children, teens, babies, and parents. The parent baskets are meant to nourish them physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Former NFL Player, Laurent Robinson, said he finds it rewarding to deliver the baskets, brighten up the kids’ days, and see the smiles on their parents’ faces.
“It’s a great feeling for both sides, and I really enjoy doing it,” he said.
Robinson became involved with Basket of Hope while he was playing for the St. Louis Rams. He and his wife, Kat, continued their participation in the organization as they relocated with each of Laurent’s football teams, from St. Louis to Dallas to Jacksonville. Kat, Laurent, and their three young children ultimately settled in Parkland.
“We fell in love with the charity, and followed it to each city Laurent played in,” said Kat, “And since they deliver baskets in each hosting super bowl city, they reached out to us here to see if we could be involved.”
On Thursday, former NFL players, including Robinson, as well as the cheerleaders from the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, will deliver the baskets to patients at Broward Hospital.
The Basket of Hope organization began in a St. Louis basement in 1995, when Angela Brunette’s seven-year-old daughter, Christina, had just completed treatment for cancer. During each day of treatment, Christina had the distraction of games, music, and crafts to make the hospital a less scary place.
Now, as the executive director of Basket of Hope, Brunette oversees the delivery of 5,000 baskets filled with these types of items each year to over 50 hospitals nationwide. Christina, who was told she had one year to live, is now 32-years-old, married with two children, and doing well.
Brunette said she wanted to give out things that helped her family cope.
“Parents need to know that the community cares about them and will be praying for them during this difficult time,” she said.
In 2012, Basket of Hope was introduced to the Super Bowl, and the program has grown beyond Brunette’s imagination.
Tuesday’s event was designed to include pediatric patients and their families in the Super Bowl excitement leading up to the big game in Miami.
Approximately 35 baskets were donated to Broward Health in Coral Springs for pediatric inpatients, kids in the ER, and parents of newborn babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Diana Guayara, Spokesperson for Broward Health Coral Springs, said, “The organization has been kind enough to assemble and donate these baskets to our pediatric department to help our children cope with being there and give them something uplifting with a hopeful message behind it.”
The rest of the baskets were prepared for Broward Children’s Hospital. Donations throughout the year come from all over the country, from companies that give large donations of goods to ladies who personally knit blankets for the babies.