The San Francisco 49ers have what it takes to dominate on the football field, but when it comes to competing against children in board games, it's a completely different story.
49ers players and Stanford alumni Chase Beeler, Derek Hall and Konrad Reuland, along with teammates Joshua Morgan, Scott Tolzien, Blake Costanzo and Joe Hastings, joined the residents of the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford for an afternoon board game tournament on Oct. 3. After back-to-back games on the road, the players were excited to spend time with the children and happy to receive such a warm welcome home.
"It's always good, especially coming off the road for two weeks," said Joshua Morgan. "There isn't anything like coming home, and to come home and see a bunch of kids forget about their worries - smiling, running around playing and just having fun. Despite their challenges, they are just full of joy and energy."
The Ronald McDonald House provides a home-away-from-home for families of children with life-threatening illnesses, but the lively afternoon of board games served as an opportunity for the kids and their families to take their minds off the treatments and on to the fun. Event and Communications Coordinator for Ronald McDonald House Clare Maloney describes the impact of the day's activities.
"Most of the kids that are staying here have very rigorous schedules of doctors appointments, hospital visits and tests, so to be able to bring something like this to their day is just an amazing, uplifting experience for them," she said. "Even if they don't know who the players are, they know they are somebody special, and that it's something different that they wouldn't normally get to do. That's very exciting for them."
The players and children relaxed while competing in friendly yet intense games including, Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, Uno, Memory, Connect 4, and Let's Go Fishing. Chase Beeler maintained his good sportsmanlike conduct and positive attitude, even though he was getting crushed by the kids in the tournament, much like the rest of his teammates.
"It's a great experience," Beeler said. "On the field, we're out there playing around as big kids with guys who are also our size most of the time. So, on one hand this is just another day on the job and it's a lot of fun, just like football, which is a lot of fun."
As he set up a game of memory, Beeler pondered on the best strategy to win.
"I guess there are some similarities between offensive line play and Memory, memorizing play schemes and stuff like that," Beeler said. "But, I don't know about how handy it comes in Candyland. I don't think there's a lot of Peppermint Kings or whatever out on the field."
Scott Tolzien led a fierce pack of fishers in Let's Go Fishing. Sevyn, one of the young participants[jsp1] , was very focused as she fished, and proudly showed off each one she caught to her dad, Jim Tennison.
"She's working on her casting and best hook techniques with Scott and there couldn't be anything better than playing Let's Go Fishing," Tennison said. "You think about how busy pro athletes really are. The fact that they would come out and spend time with kids who are sick and family members is just amazing. So, just to take their mind off it for a little bit, it's priceless."
Konrad Reuland didn't have as much luck at Let's Go Fishing, as his little playmate Shanu came up with a creative strategy.
"Shanu beat me every time," Reuland said. "He wasn't using his fishing pole and was grabbing them out of the pond. So, he bent the rules a little bit, but he won. And then he laughed at me. He pointed in my face and laughed at me."
After the games concluded, every child was given an individual award for their amazing participation in the tournament, and to make the day even sweeter, Sprinkles Cupcakes donated some tasty treats for everyone to enjoy.
"It's awesome because anytime you feel like you're making somebody's day better, doing something that can benefit the kids and brighten their day, it just makes it all that much more gratifying," said Derek Hall.
The players left the Ronald McDonald House with a pep in their step, knowing that they helped to bring light to the lives of the children.