Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Hoya Dreams Become a Reality

The Beginning of a Dream

Seven years ago, when Rob Lemos (SFS ’06) first walked into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the Georgetown University Hospital, it was with some apprehension and nervousness.

Then a freshman on Georgetown University’s lacrosse team, Lemos and some of his teammates had been asked to help the NICU staff organize an Easter carnival event for the children hospitalized in the ward. Having no real exposure to illness and tragedy, the freshman was unsure of how he would cope with suddenly being around both – especially since children were involved.

Yet Lemos’ experience in those few hours at the NICU with the children touched him significantly, leaving a lasting impact. The next time Lemos was asked to volunteer for the NICU again, it was during his senior year.

“When I was up there, I realized something enlightening,” Lemossays. “The smiles on the faces of the kids were just as big as the smiles on the faces of the guys on our team who participated.”

Seeing the same spirit for service that he had experienced as a freshman reflected in future Georgetown lacrosse teams, Lemos decided this time to institutionalize the idea of having student athletes volunteer their time with the children at the hospital. With the help of junior teammate Dave Bauer (COL ’07), and taking the idea from the University of North Carolina’s “Carolina Dreams” student athlete volunteer program, Lemos established the “Hoya Dreams” program.

So 2006 marked the beginning of the relationships and bonds formed between the Hoya athletes and the children in the university’s hospital.

The Dream-Weavers

The program started small and it was designed to function mainly on two levels. The first, on a very personal and individual level, where student athletes would take time out of their schedules and head over to the NICU to spend some time with patients. The second level was comprised of larger group events during special holidays, such as Halloween, Easter and Christmas.

Other Hoya teams soon recognized the lacrosse team’s efforts at the hospital’s NICU, and soon enough, almost all of the varsity athletics programs became involved with Hoya Dreams. Their involvement helped expand the program, taking Hoya Dreams out of the hospital ward and into the stands and bleachers at the various fields and courts, where the children would occasionally make the trip to cheer on their older friends and see them play against some of the best teams in the country.

The men’s basketball team has seen the children in the stands of Verizon Center for a few years now; MultiSport Facility has hosted the NICU patients numerous times, and the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams have had the kids join them on the field after some games and during some practices. During the past year, the field hockey team was heavily involved in fundraising and organizing events for Hoya Dreams. The men’s soccer team has been dubbed the children’s favorites, since they regularly watch them play from the NICU – the ward’s windows overlook North Kehoe Field, giving the children a bird’s-eye view of the matches even while they are in the hospital.

Despite the diverse participation, however, the Hoya men’s lacrosse team still holds the core position of leadership for the program.

“It’s something we’d like to hold on to,” said senior midfielder Chris Taylor, who is currently the head of Hoya Dreams.

Taylor, like Lemos, started as a freshman volunteer for one of the NICU events, and then got involved in more frequent hospital visits. He became close friends with Bauer and his classmate, attack Matt McBride, who were the Hoya Dreams leaders at the time and who were also about to graduate from the university.

“I went up to them and told them I’d like to take over when they graduated,” Taylor says. “So it’s been passed on. Now we’re looking for someone to take the reins for next year.”

Sharing the Dream

With every hour-long visit, every video game duel and every bedside story, the student athletes build a personal bond with the children at the NICU. Both Lemos and Taylor acknowledge the initial hesitation on the part of the student athletes when they start the program.

“When I would participate, I felt a sense of discomfort,” Lemos says. “I was certainly uncomfortable around these kids. Part of it was because of what they were going through, and partly because of my own insecurity and not really knowing what the best way to interact is. And I know for certain a lot of people felt the same way I felt.”

Adds Taylor, “It was a little shocking at first – and really sad. But after a while the positive atmosphere that the staff and the co-workers have is amazing.

“It’s kind of a subtle reminder of the things we take for granted and what we’ve been given,” Taylor continues. “It’s a good way to kind of reflect on your own life and forge relationships with people you don’t see so often.”

Lemos reveals that it was this initial fear that inspired him to make a bigger effort his second time volunteering with the kids, which eventually led to the creation of Hoya Dreams.

According to the athletes, facing the fear head-on and spending more time with the children eventually alleviates their discomfort. The children’s nature in itself helped them do so.

“After a while, you just forget there’s anything wrong with them, because really, there isn’t,” Taylor says. “They’re really the same as any other kid you’d come in contact with at the playground.”

Living the Dream

Although Hoya Dreams is predominantly a community service initiative, the NICU children are not the only ones who benefit from it.

“It’s really such an awarding experience,” Taylor says. “It’s something I look forward to. The kids are just so happy, and they’re so grateful for you to come and spend even just an hour with them, talking, playing video games, what have you.”

Both the former Hoya lacrosse captain and the current one have found the team-building aspect of Hoya Dreams to be quite significant. Lemos gives the example of two freshmen and two seniors during his time, both of whom bonded over a game of basketball with the NICU kids. Each senior paired up with a freshman to lead a team of children against another, while also participating in play.

“It was really neat to watch them interact,” Lemos says. “There is usually a lot of tension between the freshmen and seniors on any team. Here was a good opportunity for them to work together toward something that was not lacrosse related.”

Taylor highlighted the importance of the program during the lacrosse preseason as a way to welcome the freshmen onto the team.

“It creates a shared experience outside the lacrosse field that everybody can remember,” Taylor says. “You learn more about people outside the field than you do when you’re on there. It’s a completely different dynamic, and you get to see people in a different light than you normally would.

“I think that’s one of the most amazing things; kids you wouldn’t even suspect to be outgoing and so appreciative [turn out to be so].”

The Future of the Dream

Although Lemos graduated three years ago, he still very much cares about the program he helped start. He was able to attend a few Hoya Dreams events after graduating, but has not been able to venture over to the NICU ever since his work caused him to move all over the country. However, Lemos is still in touch with men’s lacrosse Head Coach Dave Urick, who updates him on how Hoya Dreams is doing.

“We always talk about how the program is doing and what’s going on,” the Georgetown lacrosse alum says.

Lemos’ attachment to Hoya Dreams is shared by Taylor, who says that he will miss the program when he graduates.

“It’s something I’m really involved in, something I’m really attached to,” Taylor says. “It’s been a part of my life for three or four years. . I hope that in the future, the kids that come after me will hold on to it and get the same appreciation and experience that I have had.”

The student leaders who will eventually step into the shoes that were once Lemos’ and that currently belong to Taylor will have to overcome many internal and external issues before taking over the Hoya Dreams program. Alongside Taylor’s aforementioned hope of an appreciation of the program, Lemos has advice for student athletes who are interested in getting involved in the cause.

“The apostle Paul wrote that adversity produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope,” Lemos, a devout Christian, said. “Athletes have learned what it takes to overcome adversity and how hope and determination lead to success. Go share your perseverance, character and hope with those kids at the hospital who are facing some tough adversity of their own.”

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