FRISCO, Texas -- The sidelines of North Dakota State and Jacksonville State roared with excitement as the ball-carrier raced toward the endzone. But they weren't cheering for a Bison or Gamecock. Instead, they were cheering for a young boy, who took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown in the Miracle League of Frisco flag football game.
The Miracle League of Frisco, founded in 2005, is a local sports league that gives children with special needs between the ages of five and nine years old the chance to play a wide range of sports. Three years ago, NCAA Team Works partnered up with Miracle League, and players from the top two FCS team up with an athlete to compete in the somewhat-competitive ball game.
Dawn Neufeld, who helps out with Miracle League along with her husband, Ryan, says the league is valuable for all involved.
"It's just a great opportunity for kids to be kids for a little bit and not have to worry about anything else going on," she said. "It's a really awesome thing for the parents. A lot of these parents never dreamed of seeing their kids out on a field playing football. And here they are playing with these players from these teams. It's a pretty awesome experience. It's just a great opportunity for kids with disabilities to play sports."
Some players, like JSU's Chris Landrum, jumped at the chance to volunteer.
"I knew it was going to be fun and exciting," the senior defensive lineman said. "To be able to come here and see the kids smiling and happy and to just know that my teammates are just as happy to be here as the kids are ... it's a good bonding experience. Brings life into perspective."
This will be the fourth time NDSU participated in the event, and the Bison have enjoyed it every year.
"It's incredibly rewarding," senior offensive lineman Jack Plankers said. "At first I just saw it as another community service program, but after the second and third year, it's so much more. Just seeing the smiles on these kids faces, it's something special."