April 15, 2004
To fully understand the impact of the fifth annual "April Play Day," sponsored by the Camps/LifeSkills Program and TEAM Vols, you'd have to have seen Vols lineman Albert Toeaina, all 6-6 and 350 pounds of him, playing with youngsters no more than seven years old and 50 pounds at the most, both having the time of their lives.
You'd have to have seen youngsters walking up to Pat Summitt and saying, "You're, uh, uh, Pat, you know, the coach."
You'd have to have Lady Vols freshman basketball player Sidney Spencer tossing up jumpers with a group of youngsters who didn't struggle in the least keeping up. Everyplace you looked, there was Spencer, looking like the Pied Piper with youngsters all around her.
You'd have to have seen the looks in their eyes when they saw their heroes, many of whom they had only seen on television or heard about on radio up close and personal.
That, in a nutshell, was the story of an April afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena where the Vols community relations program was in full swing.
Their guests, welcomed enthusiastically as they entered TBA by the nearly 100 Vols and Lady Vols student-athletes in attendance, came from Boys and Girls Clubs at Caswell Avenue, Christenberry Heights, Halls/Powell, Montgomery Village, Vestal, Walter P. Taylor, Western Heights and Laura Cansler.
Lady Vols head coach Pat Summitt was the center of attention, besieged by youngsters of all ages looking for autographs and just a word with the well-known women's head basketball coach.
It was Summitt, who looked at one young girl who asked for an autograph and asked: "Are you going to be an athlete?"
The answer came quickly: "No," a young girl named Jasmine said. "I want to be a doctor."
Former Vol defensive back Teddy Gaines showed up with the group from Laura Cansler, as part of his duties in the after school program there.
It was one day at the arena, but quite a day it was. There is no doubt what the topic of discussion was a round a number of dinner tables that night and at the Knoxville area Boys and Girls Clubs.
Their day with the UT athletes was memorable, not only for them, but also for the student-athletes involved. Everybody came out a winner.
Sponsors of the "April Play Day" were Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Pizza Hut, the University of Tennessee Federal Credit Union, First Tennessee Bank, Dick's Sporting Goods, Food City, the UT Bookstore, Aramark, the UT Athletic Department, Circuit City, The Marble Slab, Smoothie King, Regal Cinemas, Carmike Cinemas, Celebration Station and Stefanos Pizza.