Monday, November 6, 2017

Always A Tiger

This month, we had the chance to take both our girls to their first college football game at my alma mater, the University of Missouri, and it ended up being a special event for our whole family.
Kyle and I often talk of things we want to do with Grace.  I don't like to call it a bucket list, because that sounds too final for me.  We just talk about experiences we want her to have while she's with us, and we hope that's a really long time!

Meeting Mizzou Head Coach Barry Odom
Since Kyle's the sports editor at the paper, a lot of the things we like to do as a family center around sports.  We can often be found with the girls at a variety of high school events to see some of our favorite kids play.  But we also love to go and see the Cardinals play in St. Louis.  A hockey game with the Blues is also on our list.

Photo opportunity with the Tiger cheerleaders
 But it's not just Kyle that loves sports. In fact, of the two of us, I'm probably a bigger fan of college sports, especially football. And I've been known to throw my Tiger ears at the TV a time or two.
It got me thinking about what it was that first got me interested in sports.  And I remembered the first time in sixth grade when a friend invited me to a junior high basketball game.  I went out to the garage and selected a couple of my favorite coloring books and some crayons and decided I was ready to go. My mom patiently explained that it probably wasn't the best idea to take those with me. I think she worried the other kids would make fun of me. But I couldn't possibly imagine what I would do at the basketball game for the whole time we were there.

Hanging out with Mrs. Odom before the game
I would say it took maybe five minutes or less after the start of the game that I found myself cheering for the Dragons and totally involved in the game. From then on, I knew I never needed much encouragement to attend a variety of sporting events.  I didn't always know about the plays or even all of the rules, especially when I started going to high school football games, but I was always a big fan of my team.

Family photo on the field before the game

Big dreams baby girl
And that's why I wanted to take our girls to a Mizzou football game. It had probably been ten years since I saw a game at Faurot Field. Fall is one of Kyle's busiest times covering high school sports, and it just hadn't worked out. But as luck would have it, Mizzou's Homecoming weekend seemed to be a perfect fit.

Cheering is such hard work
I'd forgotten about some of the chaos of going to a big-time event, like finding parking or bag searches, but we made it. And it was definitely worth it.

Family photo at the stadium
 Prior to the game, I had contacted Mizzou's head football coach, Barry Odom, about helping us to raise awareness for INAD. His wife responded to our request, and we had a chance to meet both of them before the game. Talk about making a special experience even more magical. The Odoms were such genuine people, welcoming us onto the field before the game. And we had so much fun walking around the field, just being part of the college football experience. The cheerleaders came over to get their photo taken with Grace, and a warm rush of memories just flooded through me. From participating in Marching Mizzou for a year to taking photos of the sidelines, I will always be a Tiger. And I'm glad that I got to share a football game with my whole family.

Checking out the Mizzou Sports Arena
The weather was perfect, and we stopped by to check out this year's men's and women's basketball preview at Mizzou Arena before we headed out. It's still on my list to get Grace to see a Mizzou men's basketball game too.

As Grace's condition continues to regress, we don't know how long we will be able to take her places with us. And I didn't want to wait to see what next year brought before we tried to get to a football game. Someday, it won't matter whether or not we made it to that football game, but I'm so glad it was something that we got to do together.

All smiles from our little Tiger fan
 Although Kyle and I are probably not the most competitive or the most athletically talented people, there's definitely something about sports that brings people together. We have seen it time and time again as our high school teams rally to help us raise funding and awareness for INAD. Win or lose, we consider all of these special programs to be part of Team Grace. And that makes every single player and coach a winner in our book.


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