By John Boyle Herald Columnist
BRIER — When Seattle Seahawks tight end Zach Miller got a phone call from a friend and former college teammate, he didn’t think much about the simple act of signing a football and some Seahawks merchandise and sticking them in the mail.
The call came from Cincinnati Bengals guard Mike Pollak, who played with Miller at Arizona State. Pollak had heard from his wife about Dave and Kristina Quick, Seahawks fans in Brier with newborn twins, one of whom was at Seattle Children’s Hospital following multiple surgeries.
Kristi Pollak and Kristina Quick had attended physical therapy school together. So, in one of those small-world moments, Mrs. Pollak suggested to her husband that they reach out to Miller, whose wife, Ashley, had recently given birth to twins. Like the Quicks, the Millers’ 10-month old twin girls had spent some time in the hospital after birth and the Seahawks couple knew the angst burdening the Quicks.
So, Miller and his wife didn’t hesitate showing their compassion, didn’t think twice about packaging up a card and some items signed by Seahawks players and sending them to a family they had never met.
On the other end of that gesture, Dave Quick came home from a two-day stint at the hospital where his son Franklin had recently undergone open-heart surgery, opened a mysterious package on his front porch and shed a few tears.
“I wish I would have had a camera on my face,” he said. “It was just disbelief, like, ‘Where did this come from? How did this happen? Why?’ All of those questions. Then everything kind of hit me, I cried a little bit. It’s just the coolest thing that these guys would take a few minutes out of their day to sign stuff, send it with a card.
“I still have trouble putting into words the feeling that I had. Our life was the hospital, every day, all day. Any sort of normalcy was out the window, so to have somebody do something like that to cheer us up for a few minutes was incredible.”
The best part about this story — and the reason Dave Quick felt compelled to reach out to a reporter to tell it — is that the kindness and caring shown the Quicks is not all that unusual. The Quicks’ tale is the story of so many sports fans who have been touched by the generosity of athletes who use their fame and/or their fortune to help make a difference in people’s lives.
“I can definitely relate to anyone who has twins or premature babies,” said Miller, whose twin girls were born seven weeks early and spent three weeks in the NICU at Evergreen Hospital. “They need that extra attention.”
Not long before Miller sent that surprise package of signed memorabilia to the Quicks, the couple and their infant twins, Franklin and Harrison, got a hospital visit from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife Ashton, who stop by Seattle Children’s every Tuesday.
Wilson gets a lot of attention — and rightly so — for those visits, but he’s just one of many in Seattle’s locker room making a difference out in the community. Whether it’s Miller sending a gift to a family he never met; or Richard Sherman starting a foundation to help underprivileged kids; or Doug Baldwin trading autographs for donations to a local food bank, the Seahawks roster is full of people who understand they can make a much bigger impact off the field than on it.
Are there some bad seeds in any NFL locker room? Sure, but that’s true of any workplace, especially one that employs 61 men, many of whom are in their early 20s. (Seriously, how good of decisions would you have made given a bunch of money and fame at the age of 22?).
In the case of athletes, a lot more good goes unnoticed while the bad things become big news. So it’s worth pointing out, from time to time, the positive impact athletes have on their communities.
“Look at what these people do,” Dave Quick said. “They don’t know us. If they didn’t send anything, we would have never known. So much is focused on DUIs, Adderall, weed, what have you, but there’s a lot of good people on this (Seahawks) team. Zach Miller’s a testament to that. These guys care about their fans, about the community. You can’t say enough about that.”
While the Quicks were at Children’s, doctors and nurses started joking that they never saw Dave smile. Kristina Quick noticed that as her husband spent days on end with Franklin while she was at home taking care of Harrison. So when Russell and Ashton Wilson included Franklin’s room on one of their weekly visits, it made a real impact.
“After that, he smiled, he was so happy,” Kristina Quick said. “And after we got the box from Zach, he was really emotional. They don’t know us, we’re not anybody. We’re just some people from Brier, Washington, who like watching the Hawks play. For them to … they have so many other things going on in their lives, and to kind of feel singled out as someone fortunate to interact with them or get something nice from them, it blows me away. They probably don’t think it’s that big of a deal, but it’s a huge deal for people like us.
“There’s nothing exciting going on in our lives, this is it,” she continued, nodding to the one baby she was feeding, then to the other one drinking from a bottle in her husband’s arms. “It was a welcome distraction from everything. This is our reality, but we got a break.”
Providing that break is something Wilson has done since college, when he started visiting sick children in hospitals while he was the quarterback at North Carolina State, then Wisconsin. Wilson, whose father Harrison died in 2010 due to complications from diabetes, knew more than most people his age what it was like to spend countless hours at the hospital with a loved one. So when he saw a chance to bring a little joy to sick children and their families, he jumped at the chance to do it, and has since made visits to Seattle Children’s Hospital part of his weekly routine.
“It’s just a special thing for me, and it’s one of those things where they don’t realize how much they give to me,” Wilson said. “I go through the week, there’s a lot of things going on, a lot of people talking good about you, bad about you, and at the same time you’re getting ready for a game, and you sometimes don’t realize how important just life is in general. Just being able to walk, just being able to breathe.
“It gives you a tremendous amount of perspective because it’s one of those things where, we’re professional athletes, a lot of people look up to us and all of that. But at the same time, it’s one of those things when you have a kid who’s eight years old who wants to be able to play football, but he can’t because he has a bone problem or a brain tumor or something like that. It’s unfortunate. You just want to give them hope and let them know you’re praying for them.”
Wilson and so many Seahawks understand that they can be more to fans than just Sunday entertainment. The Quicks, those “people from Brier, Washington who like watching the Hawks play,” are just one of many families who have experienced the difference athletes can make.
“That’s the thing we’ve been talking about as players, trying to be involved as much as possible,” Wilson said. “You only get this opportunity to play for two, three years, sometimes, eight, sometimes 10 or 15 — hopefully I’m on the 15-to-20 side. But it’s one of those things where you know you might not get those moments for too long and you want to be able to share with other people and share your experiences, so that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.