Penn State players surround Dominique Bigler at Penn State Hershey Medical Center's Children's Hospital
(Hershey) -- Penn State's pre-season festivities got a boost with a visit to Penn State Hershey Medical Center's Children's Hospital in Dauphin County today.
The more than 100 Nittany Lions on hand signed autographs, visited patients in rooms, and put smiles on many faces.
Hershey Medical staff say it's the first time the team has made the trip as a whole, and Coach James Franklin says it all came from a dinner conversation.
He says he wants his players to walk away from the stopover with some perspective when dealing with athletic and academic pressure in their own lives.
19 year old Dominque Bigler was among those they met. She has synovial cell sarcoma, which affects the soft tissues around joints.
Bigler has relapsed five times, and is closing in on six years at the Children's Hospital.
She says to the Nittany Lions is special because of their connection to the fundraiser for pediatric cancer patients.
Two Penn State football players play with 5 year old David Nace, in the Children's Hospital for a foot injury.
"It means everything. I have a thing that I say: I live for THON and because of THON, because they helped save my life."
At one point, about 20 players surrounded Bigler, each shaking her hand and offering words of encouragement.
"It's like a family. Everyone at THON and Penn State is a big family. You don't have to work to have a friend, they're immediately you're friend and family," says Bigler.
When asked if the visits would become an annual tradition, Franklin responded.
"If it isn't, and you just asked me the question and it has to be now right? We would love it to be, we would love it to be. It's not a big investment."
Franklin says on top of the impact on the patients at the hospital and the community as a whole, teammates bond on visits like this.
"I think we all know that every time you go to try to help somebody else and give back to the community or give back to people, you end up getting more out of it than you give, so that comes with it."
To emphasize the importance of the day, the new Penn State coach waved off any football related questions from the media.
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