Florida football players gearing up for Gator Charity Challenge
On a late, rainy afternoon last week, Florida football players. A.J. Jones, Brandon Antwine and Duke Lemmens were among the group of captains entertaining people who are direct recipients of the many services offered by six Shands Hospital-affiliated charities: March of Dimes, Ronald McDonald House, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Shands Cancer Hospital and STOP! Children's Cancer.
For the players, It was all part of preparing for this year's Third Annual Charity Challenge, which will be held on July 30 at 7 p.m. The event, which features the Gator players challenging each other in a series of strength competitions, has grown from an obligation to something the players say they are deeply committed to.
At first it was like this is one of those things they are making us do, let’s just get this over with,'' Lemmens said. "And then it really opened my eyes. And that’s one of the great things about this place – they make you get involved. And sometimes all you needed was that first push to get passionate about things. I was lucky enough to be selected a captain this year and I chose the March of Dimes because I worked with them last year and that personally affected me so much. It really opened my eyes, I had no idea that it’s (premature births) really not that uncommon. It was something I wouldn’t normally think about doing charity for, but it’s really amazing what they do.''
For Antwine, who has battled multiple injuries throughout his career, spending time with sick children and learning about their unique challenges has had a profound effect on him, he said.
"Just to see that I’m not the only one,''said Antwine, who is captain of the American Cancer Society team. "I’ve been through a lot I think as a young guy, but seeing how young these kids are, but they are going through so much and how they are coming around, it’s just a wonderful feeling. I feel like I’m obligated to do this, and I have no problem devoting my time to any of these charities. It’s a beautiful feeling.''