Feb. 8, 2012
WASHINGTON - Hoya Dreams has become a part of the Georgetown University men's lacrosse tradition, with leadership passed down through the team over the years with current seniors Adam Donahue (Columbus, Ohio/Upper Arlington) and Henry Van Wagenberg (Salisbury, Md./Georgetown Prep) serving as the primary organizers since their sophomore year.
The mission of Hoya Dreams is to partner student-athletes at Georgetown with Georgetown University Hospital Pediatrics to give child patients an opportunity to make it to athletic events, while also having student-athletes visit to provide motivation and support during the visit. Though the student-athletes involved in the program would tell you that the motivation and lessons learned work both ways.
"For us, first thing is it helps put things in perspective," Donahue said. "Once we get up there you really feel fortunate and it really puts things in perspective. You're out every day practicing and competing, you're tired, but you see the kids and the smiles that it brings and it's great."
The work that Donahue, Van Wagenberg and the other student athletes have done has not gone unnoticed by the people involved at Georgetown Hospital.
"Adam and Henry have been wonderful to the patients here at Georgetown," said Kathleen Foy, a certified child life specialist at Georgetown Hospital. "The kids love having college athletes sit with them at the games. It is great to have college students who want to come and spend their free time with our patients. Our adolescent population especially benefits from the athletes participation in activities because it gives them someone to hang out with that is completely separate from the medical field."
While Hoya Dreams officially began in 2006 with former lacrosse player Rob Lemos, the origin of the relationship between the men's lacrosse team and the pediatric unit at Georgetown Hospital dates back much further.
"When I first got here we used to practice up on (Kehoe) and the pediatric wing overlooked where we were practicing," Head Coach Dave Urick reminisced. "We started to go back and visit those guys a long time ago, stopping in at Easter when we were on break and it's something fortunately that the guys have continued to do more often. It's a great tradition."
For Donahue and Van Wagenberg, now in their third year organizing activities for Hoya Dreams, they have looked back fondly at the time they have spent helping put smiles on the faces of the child patients at Georgetown University Hospital and realize there is still much more to do.
In December, Hoya Dreams took several kids and their families to a Georgetown men's basketball game just before winter break. They also volunteered their time to assist with all of the prep work and tree set up for the Christmas Gala to help raise money for the pediatric unit at Georgetown Hospital. But they will once again help with the annual Easter Egg Hunt, as well as the spring Hoya Dreams Day, where they will host a trip to a lacrosse game.
"We volunteered as freshman," Van Wagenberg said. "(Former lacrosse player) Chris Taylor was a senior at the time and was leading the group and organizing the events. As sophomores, we took over to keep the tradition alive. This is the third year we've been organizing events and we've been having a blast."
"They have been involved with our annual Easter Egg Hunt for the past few years," Foy said. "They help hide the Easter eggs for the kids, and then of course help the patients find them! It is a fun day for everyone involved. Adam and Henry also help me plan and organize the HoyaDream Day events where outpatients attend Georgetown sporting events. We have been attending a basketball game in the fall and a lacrosse game in the spring."
Regularly, Donahue and Van Wagenberg make trips to Georgetown Hospital, being mindful to get involvement from their teammates, an effort that has turned out a considerable amount of participation.
"Both of those guys are to be commended for their commitment," Urick said. "They've both been doing it for a few years and they work at it conscientiously and as much as they can they try to get other guys involved."
For the two seniors, they have both noted that finding volunteers to help with any of the activities taken on by Hoya Dreams has not been a challenge. If anything, the challenge has been finding a role for the overflow of guys looking to be of service.
"A lot of the seniors have been very involved," Donahue said. "Gerry Reilly, Kurt Watkinson, those guys get up there a lot and visit the patients. This year's seniors have been doing a lot logistically pairing athletes with patients."
The participation has not been solely on the senior class, as plenty of underclassmen have been anxious to be involved. For many of them it has provided an outlet away from the field or classroom and something that shows that Georgetown lacrosse is much more than what takes place on the field.
"It's a nice break from school and lacrosse, especially when you're getting the underclassmen involved and they come to find out what Georgetown lacrosse is all about," Van Wagenberg said. "We are all very fortunate to be here. Georgetown is a great place and it's important to give back no matter what your role is at the University."
As Donahue and Van Wagenberg move through their final season on the Hilltop they are confident that their younger teammates will be more than happy to keep for one of the program's most enriching traditions alive.
"Patrick Murray and Brian Casey have shown a lot of interest in taking the program over," Donahue said. "So it's a matter of mentoring them and doing what Chris (Taylor) did for us and passing the torch."
"Hoya Dreams is not going anywhere," Van Wagenberg said confidently. "We'll hand this down and if either of us are in D.C. we'll stay in touch, but I'm sure this is going to stay alive for a long time."
Whoever takes the reins from Donahue and Van Wagenberg will have large shoes to fill in helping to organize the events. Though if the current trend continues, they will have a large group of student-athletes excited to give back and be a part of the Georgetown lacrosse tradition.
"I am continually impressed with the kindness, dedication, and patience that the athletes in HoyaDreams have with our pediatric patient's here at Georgetown," Foy said. "All the athletes involved in this program make each patient they visit with feel special and allow them to be a normal kid despite being in the hospital. Whether it is playing a board game, playing Wii, or just hanging out watching movies, the Hoyadreams volunteers make our patients days so much better!"