The Deacons visited Brenner Children's Hospital in Winston-Salem on Wednesday.

Dec. 20, 2012

By Scott Wortman, Wake Forest Athletic Communications (@TieDyeNation)

Over the course of a basketball season, our happiness is largely measured in wins and losses. As any player, coach or fan can attest, we live and die with every bounce of the ball until the final buzzer sounds in March.

But now, in the thick of the holiday season and in the midst of a growing number of tragedies across the country, we look elsewhere for our happiness--where it is measured more in gratefulness and in perspective.

The Wake Forest basketball team received that perspective this past week when the Demon Deacons met with Staff Sergeant Glen Silva and also visited the Brenner Children's Hospital in Winston-Salem.

On Monday, Sgt. Silva attended the Deacons' practice and talked with the team afterwards about toughness and leadership.

"[Sgt. Silva] shared his experiences and how he mentally overcame it. He talked about just being mentally tough and being a team and having leadership," said junior forward Travis McKie. "The Army and basketball are two different things but are also focused on the same team leadership principles. Everybody must be held accountable and have each other's back."

An active duty Marine who was in town to meet with doctors at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Silva was severely injured during his tour in Afghanistan after stepping on a 20-pound IED, which is normally deployed for the purpose of flipping tanks.

Silva was fortunate he did not suffer the entire force of the bomb, but it did destroy his left leg and pelvis while also causing massive internal damages. He has already undergone almost 50 major surgeries and walks with a prosthetic leg.

But his outlook on life is not that of someone who feels sorry for himself, and that was one point he conveyed to the Deacons.

"When the situation happened and he stepped on the mine he was glad it wasn't his younger soldiers that he was in charge of," said McKie. "He cared about other people during a time when his life was in danger. He was glad it happened to him because some of the other soldiers weren't mentally tough enough to deal with that type of accident happening to them, so that struck a chord with me."



On Wednesday, the Deacons gained another life experience when the players and coaches visited with families at Brenner Children's Hospital in Winston-Salem. The team, wearing red Santa hats, went room to room handing out t-shirts and posters and also had a chance to visit with some children in the hospital's play room.

The entire team--players, coaches and student managers--all participated in the event creating a number of special moments. Whether it was McKie and Coach Bzdelik crouched at a kids table painting an ornament or Codi Miller-McIntyre driving a remote control car or just the smiles on kids' faces as they posed for photos with people they usually only see on TV, it all made for a day where life was more than just basketball.

"I sat with two girls and painted an ornament. They were just in a car accident and didn't know what happened to them," said McKie. "I also saw a little kid who had back surgery. You just see in those kids' faces, some of them don't know what's happening to them, so they're happy. But some of them do know. It puts a different spin on life. You have to value everything because it all can be taken away from you."

One father had tears come to his eyes as the Deacons posed for a picture with his ailing daughter, who he said wouldn't even get her picture taken with Santa Claus.

The Deacons also visited one child's room where there were so many Christmas lights and decorations it would put most houses to shame.

Freshman Aaron Rountree III tweeted (@DeaconTREE33) after the team left the hospital, "Just visited some of the Children at Wake Forest Baptist Health Center. Really put it all in perspective for me. Strong kids."

"The tragedy that just happened at Sandy Hook makes you definitely value your younger siblings closer," said McKie, who has two younger sisters back home. "That's why I can't wait to get home after Saturday so I can go spend time with both of [my sisters]. It definitely puts a perspective on how we must value our family. Anything can happen. You just have to value the ones you love."

Baseball Games