On Friday, April 8, members of the La Roche College men’s soccer team will visit Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC for the second annual Kicking it With the Kids event.
Kicking it With the Kids will include a mini soccer camp and a craft area for the hospital patients. Gifts will be distributed to patients who are not able to leave their rooms, and each child will be given a soccer ball, toy or keepsake craft. The event, which will be held from 1 to 3 p.m., is part of Cuddles with Kids, a charity founded in 2006 by La Roche freshman Conner Hagins.
“When I was 10 years old, I went to visit my father in the hospital when he was having double bypass surgery, and he got a stuffed animal while he was there,” he said. “I asked the nurse if everyone got a stuffed animal, and she said that only people having certain procedures did. Right then, a light bulb went off, and I decided that we needed to give stuffed animals to all of the kids in the hospital.”
Hagins decided to bring the program, which originally started in his hometown of Johnston, to La Roche when he enrolled.
“A lot of my friends on the soccer team in high school had been involved, so I thought it would be a good idea to invite the soccer team here to take part in an event,” he stated. “Everyone, from the players to the coaches, got really into it. It’s a great group of people on and off the field, and we do a lot of bonding together. This is the type of bonding that makes a team a team.”
Now in its 10th year, Cuddles with Kids has expanded from delivering stuffed animals to include crayons, coloring books, toys and more. To date, the charity has donated more than 107,000 items, or roughly $400,000 worth of goods, to children’s agencies in Pennsylvania and around the world. The charity also has issued more than $16,000 in grants to agencies to be used for programs benefitting children.
For his efforts, Hagins was named the 2016 Prudential Spirit of Community High School Volunteer for Pennsylvania. He also was a multiple recipient of the President of the United States Volunteer Service Award.
“I believe that if you’re lucky enough to be in college and playing a sport, the least you can do is give back to help those in need,” he said. “Growing up, I was taught that when you’re on the field, you try to be the best player you can be, and off the field, you try to be the best person you can be.”
For more information visit facebook.com/cuddlesforkids.