Tiger Stadium- a place usually filled with thousands of screaming fans, was instead occupied by volunteers. Like many other Louisiana organizations, Basket of Hope is still celebrating LSU football’s successes by turning it into a chance to give back to the community.
“We are having a very special packing party celebrating LSU football’s National Championship," Basket of Hope Founder Ann Ollendike said. "Tonight, we packed 200 baskets [for] various ages and very soon, we are going to make a special surprise visit and deliver these to the children locally here in Baton Rouge at the new Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital.”
However, these visits might not be possible without the continual support from two special volunteers.
“Coach O and Kelly have had the ability to help us expand into the Baton Rouge community as we were serving New Orleans Children’s Hospital and other hospitals in the southeast,” Ollendike said.
And even Coach O sits back and lets Kelly call the plays.
“I’m Kelly’s assistant really. I’ve just got to help. She organizes everything. She does all the hard work," Head Coach Ed Orgeron said.
“It’s been a real wonderful experience to have the opportunity to have Kelly receive this into her heart and to promote Basket of Hope and what we do in our community here," Ollendike expressed.
Although the Orgeron’s play a big part in this organization, it’s the collaboration between all of LSU athletics that allows Basket of Hope to bring joy to children and impact the community.
“Well LSU Athletics is the key that we can do this together," Coach "O" continued. "Obviously, LSU is very giving. You know, the state of Louisiana- we pull together."
With Coach O leading the way, Ollendike hopes his infectious attitude can recruit students to join the cause.
“The opportunity to have LSU athletes and students across sports is exciting. As we build and grow we would love to have packing parties with other teams to go and deliver the baskets at the hospital, to visit the children and offer them some love and hope and encouragement, and let them know the community cares for them.”
This work done by Basket of Hope helped LSU student and Mandeville native Michael Doherty adapt to his new life.
“I got injured playing football in high school and I went to Atlanta to a spinal cord research hospital and did therapy for three months there," Doherty said. "Through the adaptive services at the hospital they figured out it would be easier to use a Macbook instead of a regular computer so they ended up sending [me] gift cards to Apple.”
While providing material assistance is essential to Basket of Hope, it’s the emotional help they give patients that means the most.
“Basket of Hope brings a lot of joy to kids in the hospital that don’t have a lot of support," Doherty said.
And it's this support that gives the players, coaches and volunteers a sense of gratification when they walk through the hospital doors.
“Actually, when I see that child and their eyes just brighten and to receive an unexpected visit is like Christmas,” Ollendike said.
“I enjoy seeing the enjoyment on the kids face when they see the head coach of the LSU tigers come and just seeing them have a little relief for a couple of minutes," Orgeron expressed.
To Basket of Hope, hours of work are worth seeing seconds of happiness.