From the football program vs. UTEP: Heroes to Many

Oct. 26, 1999

by David de Witt, Fresno State Media Relations

The term "hero" is used to describe athletes as much as any other. A basketball player can be a hero to a number of people when they lead their team to victory. A baseball player can be a hero when they hit a game-winning home run. But it seems the term is used mainly when describing athletes' accomplishments in their respective sport. How often do these "heroes" actually do something worthy of the term?

When that question is posed to Fresno State student-athletes, they need only point at a program called "Little Heroes, Big Heroes." In effect for the past 10 years, the program has been a labor of love for the Rotary Club of Fresno, Valley Children's Hospital and the Fresno State Department of Athletics. Its goal is to spark a relationship between a Bulldog Athlete and a Valley Children?s patient. The response of Fresno State student-athletes has always been impressive, but even more so this year.

"We had to turn down some athletes to the program because we just did not have enough of the little heroes," Rotary club of Fresno ?Little Heroes? committee chairperson Lorna Milligan said. "Once you are involved with the children it gets addicting and you can?t get away."

Milligan has been involved with the program for over three years and has developed a strong attachment with the children.

"Seeing the connections with the athletes and the children just makes all this hard work worth it for everyone involved," Milligan said.

"This program is something we are proud to be a part of," Fresno State Director of Athletics Al Bohl said. "When our athletic department can reach out and help the less fortunate in our community it is a plus for everyone involved."

The commitment of the university and the student-athletes has sparked a plan for several different outings with the children. If a student-athlete is unavailable to be apart of the festivities, one of 12 alternates will take their place.

The children also talk with their chosen athlete at least once a month and get a chance to see their big hero play their games. They will also take a trip to the Fresno Metropolitan Museum in mid-November.

Diane Milutinovich, Associate Director of Athletics and the department liaison for the program, has been close to the program since its inception 10 years ago. She underscores just how important it is for Fresno State to have a program like this.

"This program gives the children a role model and friend they need during their traumatic time," Fresno State's Associate Athletic Director Diane Milutinovich said.

Fresno State's senior softball player Amanda Scott is one of the student-athletes involved. Her little hero, Michael Midkiff, has developed such a strong connection to Scott that when Midkiff was being moved to a new room in the hospital, he wanted to tell Scott personally he was moving.

"Little Heroes has been something I'm proud to say I was personally involved in," Scott said. "Michael and the kids are great."

Every team at Fresno State will suffer losses this year. Some will be extremely difficult to swallow. But because of community service programs like Big Heroes, Little Heroes, wins and losses are not of premier importance. No matter what happens to the Bulldog teams this year, the student-athletes who participate in this program will always be big heroes to their little hero.

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