A day before the Badgers take the field, they make a trip out to the American Family Children’s Hospital.
Student-athletes make the trip every Friday as part of the Badger Fridays program in which they give back to the community.
Badger Fridays began when the famed-Wisconsin figure, Barry Alvarez, was still the head coach; and student-athletes have been going since. Alvarez currently serves as the Athletic Director for UW. Many football players went to the hospital before an important, rivalry matchup against Iowa.
“You tell the guys that are in there, you’re gonna play for them,” junior offensive lineman Tyler Biadasz said.
Of the many players that have been able to take part in the program, all mentioned two important takeaways from the visit: a new perspective on life, and how each kid is special. “The look on the kid’s faces is priceless,” said senior offensive lineman David Moorman.
“Leaving that place on Friday got me kind of emotional thinking about the life that I have and how I am blessed to be healthy in general, and blessed with being a part of this team and playing,” Biadasz added.
“You understand and you’re grateful for the position that you’re in because you see the position that these younger guys are in and they look up to you,” Jonathan Taylor said.
The Wisconsin student-athletes spend about an hour walking through the halls of the hospital giving gifts to patients, taking a picture, and speaking with them about life or books they are reading.
The impact the Badgers have made on the patients in the hospital can be seen in the countless smiles, but the visit sticks with the Badger student-athletes as they prepare to take the field on Saturdays. “Several times during the game, I thought about this one guy, his name’s Holden,” Biadasz said. “He’s having a bone marrow transplant this week and that’s a new life for him. That’s unbelievable what they go through and they might not even leave the hospital their entire lives.”
“There’s a girl that’s blind, and we just said our names and the bright smile on her face just impacts you so much."
"It was a different feeling I had, I’ve never had it before,” Biadasz added.
The week of Wisconsin's game against Iowa, Biadasz had made his first visit to the hospital, and made it known that he plans on making it out again for this weekend’s home game against Purdue.
Senior Chris Orr had a similar experience with a patient when he was hurt in 2016.
“The year I was hurt, I held a baby, and she was laughing, and their parents told me that was the first time she smiled in a couple of weeks,” Orr said. “That was humbling and definitely let me know how great of an impact you have.”
Badger Fridays now include student-athletes from all teams at Wisconsin. Both D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison, juniors on the men’s basketball team, spoke about an experience they had in which patients sprayed members of the basketball team with paint.
“It was just fun to see everybody have fun,” said Trice.
Wisconsin football head coach Paul Chryst has kept up the tradition started by Alvarez, calling the tradition one of the coolest things they do at UW.
“They love the Badgers so we love going out there to continue to visit,” junior Eric Burrell said.