PLANO, Texas (Sept. 9, 2011) – Collegiate multimedia rights holder Learfield Sports recently formed a partnership with Special Spectators, a non-profit organization that creates magical days for seriously ill children and their families at sporting events across the U.S.
Learfield Sports’ collegiate portfolio of more than 50 schools, conferences and associations has opened up additional possibilities for Special Spectators’ Founder and Executive Director Blake Rockwell to create these one-of-a-kind experiences for children and their families who undergo daily, critical medical treatment.
“I am overwhelmed at the outpouring support of Learfield Sports’ personnel and partner schools as we’ve been collaborating on putting together memorable experiences for these boys and girls this fall,” said Rockwell. “So many of these young children seeking major medical care also love sports, so to me, it’s an automatic win to allow them and their families just one day where they can focus on having fun at a nearby collegiate stadium, meeting the coach and student-athletes they respect and look up to.”
For the 2011-’12 collegiate football season, Learfield Sports has collaborated with Special Spectators and many of its partner schools in crafting spirited, game-day experiences at North Carolina, Penn State, Wisconsin, Colorado, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Purdue and Oklahoma State from September through November. Additional schools are anticipated to be added as the season progresses.
Northwestern University, a Learfield Sports’ partner school, kicks off Special Spectators’ season of collegiate football experiences on Saturday, Sept. 10. The school will play host to 50 boys and girls for the Wildcats’ home opener against Eastern Illinois, marking a nine-year affiliation between Northwestern and the organization. Rockwell is from the Chicago area and launched Special Spectators in 2002 having volunteered at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
For their experience at Northwestern, the boys and girls from Children’s, Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago will arrive at Ryan Field at noon, visit with Dave Eanet inside the WGN Radio booth and enjoy a tailgate party featuring the Northwestern cheerleaders, Willie the Wildcat and numerous student-athletes. Additionally, Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald will have an opportunity to visit exclusively with the boys and girls and their families in a special, post-game session.
Since its inception, Special Spectators has hosted approximately 6,000 seriously ill children, parents and siblings at about 180 games. Through collegiate partners, its mission is to provide tickets to games and design robust days filled with special surprises and experiences in and around the stadium that are not accessible to most fans.
“For years, our company has placed a tremendous focus on what we can do to make a difference in communities across the country, and we knew this was an impactful and immediate way we could accomplish that,” said Greg Brown, Learfield’s president and chief executive officer. “Blake has established an incredible organization to benefit families in a different environment than their day-to-day, and we’re honored to have the collegiate connections to help Special Spectators expand their reach and give more kids magical days.”
Special Spectators is designed to create fun for the entire family and provide a pause from the difficulties they face battling a loved one’s illness – effectively making time stand still for one unforgettable, immersive and utterly joyful weekend. The organization is focused on doing this all over the country, all season long. Nearly 45 FBS (formerly Division 1-A) programs have participated, including universities from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA, MAC, Pac-10, SEC, Sun Belt and WAC conferences. For more information, visit www.specialspectators.org.
Learfield Sports is an operating unit of Learfield Communications, Inc. It titles the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup, oversees marketing partnerships for the Black Coaches & Administrators (BCA) and provides exclusive sports programming to more than 1,000 radio stations nationwide. In addition, its programming is seen on more than 160 local television stations, cable systems and Regional Sports Networks. For more about Learfield Sports’ history and complete collegiate portfolio, visit www.learfieldsports.com.