Bucks Make Annual Visit to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

While there is no such thing as an easy win in basketball, the Bucks know that even their toughest opponents pale in comparison to what patients at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin face on a daily basis.

Nothing about cancer is easy – but sometimes, something as simple as a visit to children battling the disease has the capability to make a real impact.

Recognizing that there are issues bigger than shooting percentages and conference standings, the Milwaukee Bucks made their annual trip to Children’s Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 11. In a visit that neither party will soon forget, the entire team and coaching staff spent the afternoon meeting and interacting with patients at the MACC Fund Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

“Being around the kids, spending time with them, it’s just a fun afternoon and I really enjoy it,” guard Mike Dunleavy said. “It gets your mind away from everything else, and at the same time they have a great time with it, so it works out for everybody.”

Led by a nurse from the MACC Fund Center’s staff, Bucks players and coaches visited the occupied rooms on the “U”-shaped hospital building floor eager to talk, listen and take pictures at each stop.

The children were excited to invite the Bucks in, with one girl standing on her bed in order to be as tall as the towering basketball players. Another baby was too small to stand, but the Bucks surrounded the child, whose family was also in the room, and encouraged them nonetheless.

As they exited each room, the team not only left behind tangible autographs and photos, but also a palpable change in spirit as one nurse shared that she had had not seen her patient – a middle-school aged boy – smile until she asked him if he wanted the Bucks players to visit.

The Bucks, who have made the visit part of their schedule for more than 25 years, have had an even longer involvement with the MACC Fund (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer).

Since its inception on the Milwaukee Arena floor during a Bucks game on Dec. 10, 1976, the MACC Fund has raised more than $42 million for pediatric cancer and blood disorder research.

“It’s just a great partnership between philanthropy and professional sports in this city,” said Debra Weiner, Executive Director of Hematology-Oncology-Transplant at Children’s Hospital. “I think it sets a high standard for other organizations and is a great example of how people can work together to make one plus one equal four or five.”

The MACC Fund, which has helped the overall cure rate for childhood cancer rise from 20 to 80 percent, was co-founded by former radio announcer Eddie Doucette and “Original Buck” Jon McGlocklin. Doucette’s son, Brett, was diagnosed with leukemia in 1975 at age 2.

Now married, Brett Doucette is considered the fund’s “first success story,” but McGlocklin, who serves as fund president, knows first-hand that not all stories have such happy endings.

“I just talked to a grandfather whose child isn’t going to make it,” he said. “I’m a grandfather. It strikes me down. You remember those, and those are the motivators.”

For assistant coach Jim Boylan, the visit also had a personal meaning.

“I had my own battle with cancer. It was a very frightening and difficult time and I had it as a grown man,” Boylan said. “I can’t imagine what it’s like for young kids and young families to deal with. For us to be able to come here and give a little something to them is actually a great honor and privilege for us.

“It’s important that we keep a perspective on how lucky we are and how much we have. These kids are the real fighters and the people that are inspirational to us. There’s always a smile on their faces, and when you see a little 2 or 3 year old with tubes coming out of different parts of his body, and having to deal with that and the pain and suffering, you appreciate who they are and how strong they are, and it kind of puts things in perspective.”

An independent health care system dedicated solely to the health and well-being of children, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin strives to improve children’s lives through care giving, advocacy, research and education.

“Since I grew up here in Milwaukee, I’m pretty familiar with it, and it’s always a pleasure to help and contribute to it,” Dunleavy said. “They do so much for our community and to come out here and participate and be part of the MACC Fund is great.”

After putting aside the scouting reports and statistics for one afternoon, the Bucks can rest assured that their simple gesture will have a lasting impact.

“I don’t want people to underestimate what this visit means,” Weiner said. “I was talking to one of our 30-year-old survivors a few weeks ago, and he still remembers when the Bucks visited when he was a teenager, and still has some of the things the team brought to him that day when he was in the hospital. While it may seem like an easy thing to do, it creates lasting memories, and when you’re in a stressful situation, little diversions make a big difference.”

For more information on the MACC Fund, and for ways to donate, visit: www.maccfund.org.