EVANSTON, Ill. (Sept. 6, 2011) – Northwestern University will play host this weekend not only to Eastern Illinois for its season opener at Ryan Field, but to 50 extraordinary boys and girls from Chicago-area hospitals representing Special Spectators.

This Saturday marks the ninth year Northwestern has shared a game-day affiliation with Special Spectators, a non-profit organization in existence solely to create magical days for seriously ill children and their families at sporting events across the U.S.

At this year’s event, select boys and girls from Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago will be fully immersed into everything Wildcat football. They will arrive at Ryan Field at noon, visit with Dave Eanet inside the WGN Radio booth and enjoy a one-of-a-kind tailgate party featuring visits from the Northwestern cheerleaders, Willie the Wildcat and numerous student-athletes before heading to their seats. Additionally, Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald will have an opportunity to visit exclusively with the 50 boys and girls and their families in a special, post-game session.

“We’re extremely grateful to the entire Northwestern athletic administration and coaching staff for allowing us this opportunity on Saturday,” said Blake Rockwell, Special Spectators’ founder and executive director. “To these children, every aspect of our game-day experience is truly memorable, and we can’t thank Coach Fitzgerald enough for hosting what I consider an invaluable locker room chat with our Special Spectators.”

In addition to Northwestern Athletics, CME Group is pivotal in making Saturday’s event for Special Spectators a reality. CME Group employees and members also volunteer their time to assist with the kids on Saturday.

Learfield Sports, Northwestern Athletics’ multimedia rights holder, also is a Special Spectators’ partner and has been involved in securing additional 2011 college football game-day experiences through November at other Learfield Sports’ properties including North Carolina, Penn State, Wisconsin, Colorado, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Purdue and Oklahoma State.

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. 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.

To learn more about Special Spectators, visit www.SpecialSpectators.org.