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October 12, 2012At college these days, Thursday nights are big bar nights, the result of the desire of young people to make the weekends last as long as possible. For members of the Michigan football team, however, Thursday nights are much more meaningful.
After practice, senior leaders on the team will pack their cars full of Wolverines and head north for a short drive, to C.S. Mott Childrens' Hospital. There, they interact and spend time with sick kids, brightening their days.
"Usually, we just talk to them: ask them about themselves, talk about ourselves, just get to know each other," fifth-year senior offensive guard Patrick Omameh said. "I enjoy it, and that's one of the things that keeps me coming back. Just interacting with people, in general. If I can help them have a better day, it feels good."
Omameh started going to the hospital on Thursday nights as a true freshman in 2008, climbing into former offensive lineman David Moosman's car to spend a few hours with the kids.
"He would say, 'Hop in my car, I'm going up to the hospital.' After coming a couple times, I became attached to the people who were here and I just kept coming," Omameh said.
And now, Omameh is that player.
After Thursday practices, he started asking who wanted to join him at Mott, until eventually, teammates began asking him if he had any space left.
"I usually try to bring as many guys as I can fit into my car," Omameh said. "You'd be surprised how many can get in there - it depends on how committed they are to coming."
The Wolverines noticed - and were inspired by - Omameh's dedication to the hospital visits. They nominated him for the All State AFCA Good Works Team, given to 11 college football players who display courageous community service work during their careers.
This Thursday, expecting his normal visit routine, Omameh walked into the hospital and was greeted by dozens of his teammates and the friends he has made at the hospital, who were there to celebrate his induction to the Good Works Team.
As a member of the All State Good Works Team, Omameh will be invited to New Orleans to participate in a community service event there before being honored at halftime of the Sugar Bowl.
"Helping here, it gives you a feeling of gratitude for what you do have," Omameh said. "There are so many that have impacted me in profound ways. Adversity is what these kids face day in and day out. They have experienced some of the worst things in life, and it makes you realize that you don't have it so bad."
Fifth-year senior safety Jordan Kovacs was one of the players who was inspired by Omameh to start going to the hospital. He started going just a few years ago, but the experience has become a huge part of his life.
"One of my first visits, I was in a room with Pat and a cancer patient," Kovacs said. "It was his 13th birthday. I was in the room before, and it was my first time meeting this kid, and Patrick walks in and the kid's face lights up. It was unreal, the spark in that room. I left there thinking that if I could make a difference in some of these kids' lives like Pat just did, that would be unbelievable.
"Pat's an unbelievable kid, a great guy. I can't say enough about him, not only what he does on the field but what he does off it. It doesn't matter how tough of a day he has, how hard practice was, he makes it here and he makes a difference in these kids' lives."