UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For head coach James Franklin, part of the developmental process at Penn State means taking time to make a positive impact. True to Franklin's first core value - a single positive attitude duplicated by more than 100 came out in full force Thursday afternoon.
For the fourth consecutive year, Franklin and his 105-member team boarded three buses for a trip to Hershey for an afternoon visit at the Penn State Children's Hospital. From dancing to coloring, games and in-room visits, the Nittany Lions brought smiles to even the weariest of faces, even if just for a moment.
"It's a really good experience we love doing this every year," sophomore running back Andre Robinson said. "This is one of the cooler things that we do, getting to give back to these kids. It makes their day just for us to come and hang out for an hour or two. We're really privileged to have that opportunity to make that impact on their lives."
For both Franklin, the staff and the team, seeing pure delight stretch across the faces of so many is a yearly highlight. For Franklin though, it's something he has always considered a priority, inspired in part by those who gave so much to him growing up.
"There are people who have had much more challenging upbringings than me, but there were people who really made a difference for me and for my family, who went above and beyond and didn't have to, and I realized what's it has done for me," Franklin said.
The Nittany Lions were greeted in the Tree House Cafe where games and coloring activities awaited one group, while other groups split up to spread throughout different floors surprising children and their families along the way.
"It's awesome seeing their faces light up," Robinson said. "The kids will run in the door just to get in line to give us high fives. Things like that just shows us how much they appreciate us and how much we appreciate them having us."
Perhaps the biggest takeaway though has been perspective. From doctors clad in white coats to nurses, hospital staff, children and families, there's simply no way to measure the magnitude of the battle that each and every one of them is tasked with taking on each day.
As Franklin put it, there are of course battles on the field in the game of football, but coming into a place like the Penn State Children's Hospital pulls in perspective regarding those who are really fighting true battles every day, presenting an opportunity to both reflect and make positive impact.
"It's really humbling to walk through and see all these kids fighting every day," senior linebacker Brandon Smith said.
For Robinson, it's as simple as taking a step back from everyday tasks to focus on a bit of gratitude in the face of unimaginable challenges.
"It puts perspective on things," Robinson said. "Seeing these kids, we complain when we wake up at 5:30 in the morning to go work out, but what these kids go through day in and day out, it puts perspective on things it all really makes you think and be appreciative of all that we have."