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Gator volleyball team cheers up children at Shands

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UF & Shands Pediatrics Chairman Scott Rivkees presents Coach Mary Wise and Gator Volleyball players with a ball adorned with the handprints of children at Shand's Children's Hospital

While most UF students drove home for the Thanksgiving break in classes, the women of UF’s volleyball team visited patients and families at Shands Hospital for Children Sunday.

It marked the team’s 21st annual Thanksgiving week visit, a tradition started by former Gator Patricia Moreno in 1992.

The team handed out small volleyballs and lanyards while visiting most of the rooms in the Shands pediatric ward.

Susan Leopold, whose son, Garrett, is a Shands patient, was thankful the women carved time from their schedules for the visit.

“I think that means a lot because you have to think about what they’re giving up,” she said. “I mean, they’re giving up their family time. I’m sure they have a lot of studying to do as well.”

Coach Mary Wise said each year’s visits are memorable. This year, though, is distinctive.

“This one will be pretty special because our assistant coach and his wife just delivered a baby, so to have a new addition to our Gator family and know how awesome the doctors and nurses are here at Shands really makes it more personal,” she said.

Sundai Weston, a senior on the team, said the visit gives her perspective and reminds her how lucky she is to be at UF and on the volleyball team.

“At the close of four awesome years, I’m really grateful for all the opportunities I have had at this program,” she said. “This year it means more to me because it’s the last time I’ll be able to share this with these families and my Gator volleyball family.”

Kelly Price wrote this story online.

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