McNeese’s Victory Day celebrates kids with special needs

Published 4:28 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The McNeese State University football team hosted their first Victory Day celebration on Tuesday, giving area disabled children the chance to play with players and experience a college football game — complete with huddles, fanfare and heroic touchdowns.

Every participant was assigned a number and given a practice jersey to wear. From there, they were able to participate in the day camp on one of two sections on the field. On one side, children were able to play catch. On the other side, a simulated football game took place. At the end, every participant was presented with an honorary medal and two tickets to a game for the upcoming season.

McNeese’s new head coach, Gary Goff, said the event was a meaningful experience for the participants.

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“It really just gives them a game-day experience, and an opportunity to see what it feels like to score a touchdown,” he said. “It gives them a chance to do something they haven’t had a chance to do.”

Victory Day is a concept Goff carried with him from schools in which he was previously a coach.

“It was such a big hit,” he said. “More importantly, it was a way for us to give back to the community.”

He said he was honored to be able to bring this to Lake Charles.

“It’s awesome. You see the reaction on these children’s faces, and just as an important reaction on their families’ and parent’s faces.”

This event wasn’t just for the children. According to Goff, Victory Day was just as impactful for McNeese’s administration, athletes and volunteers.

“It was a way for our players to see that they are very, very fortunate and lucky to be playing the game they love, because so many don’t have the ability to do that.”

For Goff, it is imperative his players take time to give.

“It’s important to show our student athletes that it’s important to give back to the community and help those that need our help even if it is just saying a kind word or bringing a camp to them that they have never been a part of.”

McNeese quarterback Walker Wood said he was thankful for the opportunity.

“Just to take a moment to step away from football for a little bit, stop thinking about ourselves, and use the platform that we have as college athletes to just bring some joy to someone else and give them the opportunity to do what we do everyday is really cool.

“It’s easy for us to take it for granted,” he said. “We get to do it everyday, and we’re blessed to do it. It’s not a day in the life, but they get a couple hours to see what we get to do,” he said. “To give them two hours to have as much fun as we do everyday, I think it’s awesome.”

This is Wood’s last year at McNeese, and he said he will never forget the joy he got from seeing the “boys and girls participating giggling as they scored their first touchdown.”

“It was an awesome event,” Wood said. “It was fun to watch just the joy in all the kids’ faces.”

Wood said he hopes the children who participated will walk away and remember the touchdown they scored as a special, lifelong memory.

He said that he hopes future McNeese athletes will be also able to participate in this event and “enjoy the moment, and be able to walk away from it and reflect on how fun it was.”

Goff and his team look forward to seeing the participants again during the upcoming season, and again at next year’s Victory Day